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As the Sabres Rattle
August 25, 2013 8:30 AM   Subscribe

Patrick Cockburn: Syria's Civil War is complicated and from the LRB in May: The quagmire is turning out to be even deeper and more dangerous than it was in Iraq.
Did Syria gas its own people? The evidence is mounting.
The Guardian postulates that it was Assad's ruthless brother who mastermind alleged the Syria gas attack.
posted by adamvasco (524 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Be that as it may, I am opposed to yet another costly, wasteful American intervention in the Middle East.
posted by Renoroc at 8:41 AM on August 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


If they did use gas, where did they get it from?

('Cause if Syria's anything like Iraq...)
posted by Sys Rq at 8:43 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The shame here is that this is an actual, moral, justifiable reason for intervention on our part. Our epic string of crocked-up, self-serving misadventures will only send the world (and our citizens) the exact wrong message if they're the reason we do nothing.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:47 AM on August 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


What plausible interventions might make a difference? All the arguments I've heard for intervention by the U.S. have to do with Obama's or the West's "credibility", and the need to preserve it by acting now that the red line has been crossed. So what? "Credibility" is a non-issue here, and focusing on the need to preserve an American thing seems profoundly beside the point and very much "this isn't about you, America", and thus a very manipulative attempt by interested parties to get the big kid on the block on their side.

What's conspicuously absent is any description of a scenario where American (or European) military intervention actually saves lives or brings about a faster and more stable resolution to a four-way civil war.
posted by fatbird at 8:50 AM on August 25, 2013 [21 favorites]


I've been reading some truly insane conspiracy theory stuff about how this was really a rebel false flag, or that Israel gave chemical weapons to Al Qaeda of all the stupid things, which they then used to attack civilians.

The children being killed in Syria are as valuable and precious as my child. Advocating non-interferance is the same as supporting Assad's eventual wholesale massacre of everyone who livesin rebel-held areas. If we stay out of this and do nothing, the takeaway is that Russia and China stand behind their client states, while the West's talk about human rights and war crimes is a load of crap. Considering the death toll it may already be too late to do anything about this, but if we want to make absolutely sure that despots everywhere can sleep a little more soundly, and that people trying to overthrow dictators can't depend on us to even enforce our own phony little "red lines" then doing nothing is absolutely the right move. China will know, for instance, that if it eventually decides to knock over Taiwan that America will do nothing in response. Good idea?
posted by 1adam12 at 8:52 AM on August 25, 2013 [4 favorites]



Guns are used everywhere...as are firebombs (Dresden), napalm (Vietnam), nukes (Japan), land mines (Africa), drones (middle east and ?), and lots of other things in places.

I've don't understand why there is a "line" with chemical weapons.
posted by CrowGoat at 8:52 AM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've don't understand why there is a "line" with chemical weapons

There's a line with all of those other things you mentioned as well (excepting drones, which are basically legal because the US wants to use them). More generally, the idea is that once someone starts using chemical weapons, casualties very quickly rise from being counted in the hundreds and thousands to the tens and hundreds of thousands. RE: World War I, Iran-Iraq war, etc, etc
posted by Room 101 at 8:56 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


What are the outcomes though? So say the US government intervenes. Then what? Who rules? Our government is going to pick some leaders? What about the Salafis? Seems like they are the most likely winners of this-- is the US government going to stand aside if the new Syrian elections put them in power?

And what about the economic aspects? Is this going to to turn into Libya part II, where the Western powers "loan" the rebels money to buy weapons, and then tie them to the forever IMF debt treadmill?
posted by wuwei at 8:59 AM on August 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've don't understand why there is a "line" with chemical weapons

They can't be aimed or targeted effectively. Especially when they are used on urban areas, whatever value they may have against military targets is massively outweighed by the risk of civilian casualties. They are also incapable of distinguishing between protected individuals who may never be targeted (ambulances, for example) and fighting forces. As for incendiaries, it is still legal to use them in certain contexts, but the laws of warfare prohibit their use against civilians or against military forces operating in heavily populated civilian areas for precisely the same reasons. Many of the lawyers I've spoken to about this issue, and I include myself here, believe that the nuclear attacks against Japan were illegal even under the law of war as it existed in 1945 for precisely this reason.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:03 AM on August 25, 2013 [14 favorites]


the West's talk about human rights and war crimes is a load of crap

This has always been the case. The West has always acted according to realpolitik just as much as anyone else.

Advocating non-interferance is the same as supporting Assad's eventual wholesale massacre of everyone who lives in rebel-held areas.

No it isn't. Practical outcomes affect moral outcomes. If no plausible intervention is available, "Do something, anything!" does not sanctify the consequences of intervention, and we've just had multiple, decade long examples of how badly intervention can go.
posted by fatbird at 9:05 AM on August 25, 2013 [13 favorites]


there's always an actual, moral, and justifiable reason for intervention on our part for any conflict. but these conflicts are never black and white, i.e. evil people vs. innocents. there are innocents on both sides of any conflict. there are evil people on both sides of any conflict.

the use of chemical weapons as being a "red line" might be ideal for decision-making, and to justify a delay in such, but war is war, and killing me with a baseball bat or a machete, or a gun, or with gas is equally horrible and terrible.

have we learned anything from our history? have we learned anything from the 2 wars of the last 10 years?

dropping bombs on perceived bad guys has a horrible side effect of killing and maiming innocents, creating hardship and heartache, and providing the environment for the nurturing of a new generation of evil-doers, who have nothing left to live for.

-----

you want to really promote peace? give people a reason to live? do you know why many of us in North America don't rise up in the streets in protest of anything ? it's because we're comfy in our lives, with our hot water and our microbe-free food, our cable TV and our smart phones. Why would we want to even think about risking all that?

you'll never beat a populace into submission. never.
you want peace? make people comfy. give them a better alternative. stop crapping all over them.

it's time for a Marshall Plan v 2.0.
posted by bitteroldman at 9:06 AM on August 25, 2013 [15 favorites]


Please don't let the fact that you've just been involved in two bullshit wars pull you away from doing the right thing.

Just know that you cannot sit back and watch a dictator dump chemical weapons on children, do nothing, hand-wring AND claim the moral high ground.
posted by fingerbang at 9:06 AM on August 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


"... is equally horrible and terrible"

on preview: I do have to admit that you guys have posted some interesting points on the reason why chemical weapons are the "red line". but I still can't wrap my head around (what is to me) the paradox of "legal warfare"
posted by bitteroldman at 9:10 AM on August 25, 2013


Just know that you cannot sit back and watch a dictator dump chemical weapons on children, do nothing, hand-wring AND claim the moral high ground.

The fact that the West does not have the moral high ground is precisely why it shouldn't intervene. If we had used our power to secure the moral high ground, instead of "geopolitical influence", this unholy fucking mess would not be happening. God I wish it weren't so, but nothing I know of history or humanity suggests that this will end in anything but continued and unimaginable horror, with intervention or without. But intervention will perpetuate the madness that underlies it, and some day, that madeness will have to stop. I'd just rather that it didn't stop only because everyone on Earth is dead.
posted by howfar at 9:11 AM on August 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just know that you cannot sit back and watch a dictator dump chemical weapons on children, do nothing, hand-wring AND claim the moral high ground.

Ah, the old "he's stealing babies incubators and leaving them to die" spiel.
posted by JackFlash at 9:13 AM on August 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'm usually not one to posit conspiracies and shit, but...

Why would they have done this right at the same time that the UN inspectors were there to look into chemical weapons? Seems fishy to me.

Of course, maybe that's the whole plan - hit em when they're there so people like me would say "why would they do that when inspectors were there?"

I just... The opposition is a bunch of shady fucks, and I don't think we should be there at ALL. I support some uprisings (the one in Egypt that pushed for more secularism and the one in Tunisia looked good - Libya might have been good, maybe, but then it seems that a lot of right-wing/fundamentalist types that too charge there. Syria, well... I think it sucks, but I'm not so sure the opposition is that much better at this point, and I am very skeptical of US power plays in the region (Middle East and now, the Pacific) as of late. I think this is a much larger geo-political strategy at play here that we are not hearing. I am not saying that the uprisings are part of a plot, but rather, the US is taking advantage of it and has plans on the books to take advantage of such a situation. I mean, we know there's a shit ton of contingencies they have studied and prepared, so surely, why not this?

That said, there's no doubt in my mind that there might have been a few conveniently timed sparks to help push the fire larger than it would have been. The CIA is good at that kind of thing. There's no telling how this will play out and I think we're playing with a dangerous fire.
posted by symbioid at 9:13 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


There may be no good answers, no clear idea of who is attacking who, who is the good guys, who is "on our side" or which faction, if any, that American backing would improve the situation for the Syrian people, but John McCain is sure that America isn't bombing fast enough.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:13 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Intervention might be justified if it could be shown that by the limited application of force, the WMDs (funny how they're just "chemical weapons" these days) could be secured and prevented from being used again. However, given the current state of political affairs in the United States, I cannot conceive of a person associated with the government who could make this case in a credible way so recently after Iraq. Maybe we should find some former general and have him give a presentation to the UN.

I wonder if there has been a single instance where interventionism to secure advanced weapons has produced a real long term positive outcome.
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:13 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just know that you cannot sit back and watch a dictator dump chemical weapons on children, do nothing, hand-wring AND claim the moral high ground.

even if the alternative is to attempt to ally ourselves with al quada and the sunni resistance that we were at war with in iraq?

what's developing here is just one part of a multi-faceted sectarian and social war in the middle east, one in which none of the actors like us and are likely to stab us in the back at the first profitable moment - one in which the rebels are as likely to be as ruthless and evil as assad is

there is no moral high ground to be had here for us
posted by pyramid termite at 9:14 AM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


is "dumping chemical weapons on children" worse than kidnapping them, traumatizing them, and then forcing them to fight your wars as was done during conflicts in Sri Lanka, Uganda, and so many others? because the West didn't intervene there.

it's obvious that intervention for every single conflict in the world isn't sustainable, but it's never been about the children.
posted by bitteroldman at 9:14 AM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Please don't let the fact that you've just been involved in two bullshit wars pull you away from doing the right thing.

I don't see why it's always American troops though. We spend huge amounts of tax payer dollars so other countries can stay at home. Fine, we're good at killing people and blowing shit up. So either join us as equal partners, pay through the nose to have us do your share of the killing and dying, orr shut up about moral high grounds.

Or let us have a pass on this one and someone else take care of it this time.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:15 AM on August 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Way back when Gulf War II broke out I make a drawing that made it look like an 80s video game. I put the Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan "expansion packs" as "coming soon." I missed Egypt.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:17 AM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm coming to understand now that the left wing is as invested in the idea of American "hyperpower" as the right wing is, they just want it to be true for purposes of moral cleanliness rather than the scent of their enemy's fear.

I'm very sympathetic to the urge to intervene, to have all those bombs and bullets accomplishing something worthy rather than evil. But in the end, it's still bombs and bullets and killiing. It's not even very effective at its right wing goal of instilling fear in America's enemies.
posted by fatbird at 9:19 AM on August 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


1adam12: " If we stay out of this and do nothing, the takeaway is that Russia and China stand behind their client states, while the West's talk about human rights and war crimes is a load of crap."

Do you honestly believe the West's talk about human rights ISN'T a load of crap? The USG only believes in one thing and that is to maintain its hegemony in whatever ways it can. It prefers to do its dirty deeds covertly (unless you're the Neo-Con faction then go right ahead and start illegal and unjust wars). Intervention is serious business, and while I don't like the idea of just letting dictators go about using chem weapons, the case against the dictators should be fairly high in such a case. I realize this is dangerous thinking as it leads to things like non-interaction in places like Germany WWII and Rwanda/Burundi or the DRC.
posted by symbioid at 9:19 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, now that I mention it, I find it very interesting that none of the major American news outlets are using terms like WMD or "weapon of mass destruction." This is what chemical weapons are. Branding at work, I guess.
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:21 AM on August 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I saw ths most disturbing video last night on the news. A grieving man, holding his two dead toddlers, sobbing uncontrollably--victims of nerve gas apparently. I just lost it. I don't know what to think anymore.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:25 AM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't see why it's always American troops though. We spend huge amounts of tax payer dollars so other countries can stay at home.

Nah - you (and any other country) spend huge amounts of tax payer dollars so your government can achieve its strategic goals, whatever they are. it's not about human rights, it's not about helping out your allies just on principle, it's not about saving the hot women and the cute children. it's always been about achieving the long term vision.

You also think you're the only ones who fight in wars because your media outlets have convinced you that you're the only country in the world whose culture and interests matter.

You also have a population of 300+ million people, so on a pure numbers basis, it does indeed seem that you have more involvement, even though from the standpoint of proportion of total population, your involvement might be not that much higher than the rest of us.
posted by bitteroldman at 9:26 AM on August 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm coming to understand now that the left wing is as invested in the idea of American "hyperpower" as the right wing is, they just want it to be true for purposes of moral cleanliness rather than the scent of their enemy's fear.

I'm very sympathetic to the urge to intervene, to have all those bombs and bullets accomplishing something worthy rather than evil. But in the end, it's still bombs and bullets and killiing. It's not even very effective at its right wing goal of instilling fear in America's enemies.


I can't say that I disagree. But, in my heart of hearts, I guess I'm am existentialist; it's imperative to choose a side. Sometimes (most of the time?) it involves the lesser of two evils. But doing nothing when you can do something just feels like impotence to me.


Don't get me wrong, I believe that military action should always be the last alternative. I'm more than open to other options, if anyone has any.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:32 AM on August 25, 2013


I've don't understand why there is a "line" with chemical weapons.

Because World War I.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:34 AM on August 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


Sometimes, though, action aggravates a situation much more than inaction. I think that is another concern that we should be considering, even though it might be the case that intervention is "required" to at least put a halt to this, it might just get worse, no? Then - did you really help at all? How many more lives were killed by your intervention than not killed. That's the excuse of the people who dropped bombs in Japan. "Well, there would've been a LOT MORE KILLED IF WE DIDN'T!" (how do you prove that?)
posted by symbioid at 9:35 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find it very interesting that none of the major American news outlets are using terms like WMD or "weapon of mass destruction."

I'd be ok if we could go back to WMD being only nuclear weapons. I don't think it will happen, but it's kind of tiring for every sort of non-conventional weapon to be lumped into the same category together. It's too political to have any concrete meaning anymore.
posted by kiltedtaco at 9:38 AM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


there is no moral high ground to be had here for us

Sure there is. There's the " Sit back on our comfy couches, watch the slaughter on tv and say "Tsk tsk, isn't it awful? Still, there's nothing that can be done, because annoying we would do would make it worse. Pass the popcorn."" moral high ground. It's very popular on metafilter.
posted by happyroach at 9:41 AM on August 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


Ah, the old "he's stealing babies incubators and leaving them to die" spiel.
posted by JackFlash

No, one was a made up atrocity. One is a true atrocity. Which is which Jack? Do you need help with that?
posted by fingerbang at 9:42 AM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't think WMD is necessarily an ideal descriptor, but it speaks to credibility when you can't use consistent terminology to describe something because of the association with past debacle.
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:45 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


you'll never beat a populace into submission. never.

Eh, you can, but it requires actual conquest, rule with an iron fist, cultural control, brutal suppression of any form of dissent,etc. All things we seem to be unwilling to outright do after the initial expenditure of arms.

We should intervene in Syria, but no one should expect the end result to be anything other than a disgusting and inhumane affront to a true democracy. Which would still be a step up from the current situation.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:45 AM on August 25, 2013


It's very popular on metafilter.

You know what else is popular on Metafilter? Moral preening. Please describe an intervention that's even remotely plausible that would save lives. How might the application of western military force make the situation better?

No intervention that's ineffective can be moral. When you're talking about unleashing violence, the outcomes matter a lot more than the intent.
posted by fatbird at 9:49 AM on August 25, 2013 [22 favorites]


Sure there is. There's the " Sit back on our comfy couches, watch the slaughter on tv and say "Tsk tsk, isn't it awful? Still, there's nothing that can be done, because annoying we would do would make it worse. Pass the popcorn."" moral high ground.

strawman aside, this is an utterly content free analysis of a very complex situation

if you favor intervention, it should be up to you to define what kind of intervention you're talking about, why you think it would be effective, who you think we can trust and why you think it wouldn't push the middle east into a chaotic multisided war
posted by pyramid termite at 9:50 AM on August 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Airstrikes and tanks used against civilian populations are never okay and justify intervention on moral grounds. Ditto helicopters raking crowds of civilians with explosive 20mm rounds fired from an upscaled gatling guns, nevermind chemical weapons.

I thought we did the right thing in Libya with clearing the airspace and taking out heavy armor being used against civilians. It gave the rebellion a fighting chance. We should've done the same in Syria a year ago or more but things are necessarily stickier there due to the proximity of Israel and Russia.

If we've now reached a point where the moral imperative to halt the horror show overrides the geopolitical delicacy of the situation, then maybe that's for the best.

I'm coming to understand now that the left wing is as invested in the idea of American "hyperpower" as the right wing is, they just want it to be true for purposes of moral cleanliness rather than the scent of their enemy's fear.

Speaking for the entirety of the left (read: your generalization is foolish but I'll try and humor it), we never wanted to buy this hammer, but as long as we're stuck with it we may as well use it for good. Just because the right wing is wrong to view every situation as a nail does not preclude the existence of actual nails where a hammer could do some good and reduce the aggregate carnage in the world.
posted by Ryvar at 9:53 AM on August 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


People advocating invading there should enlist. They have not attacked our country.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:53 AM on August 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Syria chemical weapons: Where did they come from?

(Brief summary: Egypt and the former Soviet Union.)
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:54 AM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why is America wading into another country it has no clue about even being discussed? Does anyone really think that is going to help anyone? Jesus.

How about learning about the places you "intervene" in a bit before applying massive stupid force to a complex and already hellish situation.
posted by iotic at 9:54 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


>Airstrikes and tanks used against civilian populations are never okay

...and are what WE ended up doing the LAST time we 'intervened' someplace.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 9:56 AM on August 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't see why it's always American troops though

Well, if an extreme Islamist regime takes over who do you think they might be targeting? Do you still feel invulnerable?
posted by Segundus at 9:57 AM on August 25, 2013


...and are what WE ended up doing the LAST time we 'intervened' someplace.

Yes, and that was wrong. Your point is?
posted by Ryvar at 9:58 AM on August 25, 2013


Also, last our checked our most recent previous intervention was taking out bombers and heavy armor being used against civilians in deliberate reprisal attacks (Libya). I was really, really okay with how we conducted ourselves there.

The quagmires the previous administration embroiled us in were wrong, remain wrong, and will always have been wrong.
posted by Ryvar at 10:00 AM on August 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


> Well, if an extreme Islamist regime takes over who do you think they might be targeting? Do you still feel invulnerable?

Girls' schools, rock music, dissenting publications, etc. Certainly not the United States; let's not get carried away.
posted by planetesimal at 10:00 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, and that was wrong. Your point is?

"Do something" interventionism is not risk free, and given the lessons of recent history, there are guaranteed to be shitty, immoral consequences to any intervention. Apache helicopters haven't received a magical upgrade since then that allows them to distinguish bad guys from civilians.

Your point about my foolish generalization is well taken, but the counterpoint is that there are things you just can't do with a hammer, no matter how carefully you wield it. And Syria is most definitely not a nail.
posted by fatbird at 10:01 AM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't see why it's always American troops though. We spend huge amounts of tax payer dollars so other countries can stay at home.

Is anyone seriously talking about putting American troops in? I got the impression that the idea is a Yugoslavia-style bombing strategy combined with giving the rebels the weapons they need to remove Assad. I very much doubt that Obama has any intention of starting a ground war. His administration's ideal here probably looks a good deal like Libya writ-large.
posted by AdamCSnider at 10:03 AM on August 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Syria's not a nail, but it's air force sure as hell looks like one given how it's been used the past few years.

"Do something" interventionism is not risk free, and given the lessons of recent history, there are guaranteed to be shitty, immoral consequences to any intervention.

This is where we disagree. I think trouble starts whenever American boots touch foreign soil except in the most dire of circumstances (WW2-levels of moral imperative). This counts double in areas where American troops will not mesh well with the local culture (translation: anywhere outside of Europe).
posted by Ryvar at 10:07 AM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, if you want a practical thing you could do? Take out the Baath leadership. They gave up any legitimacy years ago. That whole thing is a Stalinesque racket, a criminal enterprise, a crime family. Kill em, and once the fear is gone you'll find their replacements a lot more reasonable.
posted by fingerbang at 10:07 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is anyone seriously talking about putting American troops in? I got the impression that the idea is a Yugoslavia-style bombing strategy combined with giving the rebels the weapons they need to remove Assad.

Cruise missiles and smart bombs still aren't free, or blowback free, and the American tax payer has already bought a whole bunch of them dropped in various "interventions" in the past decade plus. Why not someone else foots the bill this time?

Well, if you want a practical thing you could do? Take out the Baath leadership. They gave up any legitimacy years ago. That whole thing is a Stalinesque racket, a criminal enterprise, a crime family. Kill em, and once the fear is gone you'll find their replacements a lot more reasonable.

Executive Order 12333 might have a couple issues with that approach.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:10 AM on August 25, 2013


Well, if an extreme Islamist regime takes over who do you think they might be targeting?

hezbollah - they already HAVE been targeted, twice

this is something that some of you aren't getting - that overthrowing assad increases the likelihood of an extreme islamist regime taking over - or at least trying to

is this what the "war on terror" is coming to? - allying ourselves with known terrorists against dictators?

and what happens when assad realizes his back is up against the wall and he must do something desperate to save himself? - maybe he would decide to start a war with israel by launching some of those chemical rockets

ask yourself one question - the israelis are probably even more interested in the outcome of all this than we could ever be - but as far as i know, they've been very cautious about what they do - they'll bomb a specific target for a specific threat, but they've yet to actually intervene

why? - they're scared shitless of what could happen - they should be - so should we
posted by pyramid termite at 10:11 AM on August 25, 2013 [14 favorites]


I'm with Ryvar and fingerbang. America can crater every airfield in Syria, bomb the shit out of the Baathist command and control, and enforce a no fly zone, all with very little risk to American life.

Will it magically make Syria excellent? No, but it will speed up Assad hanging from lamp post and that means fewer civilians gassed and bombed.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:13 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah, the old "he's stealing babies incubators and leaving them to die" spiel.

No, one was a made up atrocity. One is a true atrocity.


And you know this for a fact how?
posted by JackFlash at 10:15 AM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm with Ryvar and fingerbang. America can crater every airfield in Syria, bomb the shit out of the Baathist command and control, and enforce a no fly zone, all with very little risk to American life.

No airfields makes it more difficult to provide international aid, same goes for a no fly zone. You can bomb the military all you want but it's not them that's going to starve because of a embargo.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:16 AM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can't say that I disagree. But, in my heart of hearts, I guess I'm am existentialist; it's imperative to choose a side. Sometimes (most of the time?) it involves the lesser of two evils. But doing nothing when you can do something just feels like impotence to me.

You should try growing up. Then you realize there are, in fact, many, many situations in life where you can do little, if any, good. More than likely you'll just make things worse.

But then, I suppose this is why there's actually a serious discussion about "intervention" in Syria. And, you really have to hand it to the media. They can sell a war. "Intervention" is precisely the word you want to use to sell it to Americans. They wouldn't call it an "escalation" from the situation we're in now, with two nuclear powers illegally arming and funding two sides of a civil war. They certainly wouldn't try "war" or "battle" or "defense" -- that wouldn't go over at all with war weary Americans. But "intervention" has nice, controlled, medical overtones. And it's so exactly vague. Why intervention could mean anything from a few bombs to a lot of bombs. And see how the people eat it up?

Also, last our checked our most recent previous intervention was taking out bombers and heavy armor being used against civilians in deliberate reprisal attacks (Libya). I was really, really okay with how we conducted ourselves there.

Ah, one good apple spoils the bunch, eh? One day it might behoove you to learn what actually happened in Libya. And I'm not talking about what you saw on the television that one time. There really is a powerful historical amnesia at work. The idea that anybody, particularly a self-righteously professed "liberal" might praise US meddling in Libya is beyond absurd. So much for the entirety of the left.

Take out the Baath leadership. They gave up any legitimacy years ago. That whole thing is a Stalinesque racket, a criminal enterprise, a crime family. Kill em, and once the fear is gone you'll find their replacements a lot more reasonable.

It's important to emphasize that this was the real triumph of Iraq. You have to habituate people to murder on demand. You have to put it on the table, in the middle, near the main course. And feed it to them a bit at a time. Rebuking the international community, proudly "going it alone", slaughtering thousands. All of these were investments. In this way when the time comes, when the State finds itself with a real prize at hand no propaganda effort will be necessary. At that point people will remember the taste, not completely, but just enough to be comforted by a familiar meal.
posted by nixerman at 10:19 AM on August 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


I thought we did the right thing in Libya with clearing the airspace and taking out heavy armor being used against civilians. It gave the rebellion a fighting chance. We should've done the same in Syria a year ago or more but things are necessarily stickier there due to the proximity of Israel and Russia.

Why do you think it would be a good idea for Syria to be run by Al-Qaeda the Nusra Front? They are already kidnapping and killing Americans in Syria.

Well, if you want a practical thing you could do? Take out the Baath leadership. They gave up any legitimacy years ago. That whole thing is a Stalinesque racket, a criminal enterprise, a crime family. Kill em, and once the fear is gone you'll find their replacements a lot more reasonable.

The thing is that the people who are trying to push Obama into intervening in Syria don't actually give a fuck about Syria. They want to start a war with Iran and bombing Syria is likely to start just that, especially now that it can discredit the new, more moderate, Iranian figurehead president. Americans are obsessed with justifiable homicide, the righteous kill. There's no persong or people you can kill in the middle east which will make the situation any better. Stop masturbating to lethal power fantasies.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:20 AM on August 25, 2013 [25 favorites]


They wouldn't call it an "escalation" from the situation we're in now, with two nuclear powers illegally arming and funding two sides of a civil war.

it's not just the u s and russia that are doing this, though - more significantly, it's saudi arabia, qatar and others on one side and iran on the other side

i'm really not sure we have a dog in this fight - and i think this situation is likely to escalate into all out war before it's over

we don't want to get blamed for that

---

They want to start a war with Iran and bombing Syria is likely to start just that

another reason why intervention is a bad idea
posted by pyramid termite at 10:27 AM on August 25, 2013


One day it might behoove you to learn what actually happened in Libya. And I'm not talking about what you saw on the television that one time. There really is a powerful historical amnesia at work. The idea that anybody, particularly a self-righteously professed "liberal" might praise US meddling in Libya is beyond absurd. So much for the entirety of the left.

"Oh, by all fucking means, enlighten me."

Why do you think it would be a good idea for Syria to be run by Al-Qaeda the Nusra Front? They are already kidnapping and killing Americans in Syria.

I'm aware of all of that - believe it or not quite a few Americans pay attention to the news coming out of both domestic *and* foreign media in order to keep themselves informed. I don't think it would be a good idea for them to be running the show - I just think anything is better than the current government, even if it hurts American interests in the medium term, preventing slaughter is still the right thing to do.
posted by Ryvar at 10:27 AM on August 25, 2013


You should try growing up. Then you realize there are, in fact, many, many situations in life where you can do little, if any, good. More than likely you'll just make things worse.

Oh, sorry. My bad.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:27 AM on August 25, 2013


[Maybe we can avoid the "grow up" type comments, in the interest of having a good discussion?]
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:29 AM on August 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


This is who is in charge right now.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Assad_family

This whole mess is really all about these guys clinging to power. If you take off the baathist head, the body stops moving and waits for new instructions. Look at Iraq.

Now as for which democratically elected group takes power afterwards? Well that's for the Syrians to decide and not you. You don't get to deny them that right because you're afraid of the Salafi boogie man. (lol all your Billions in defence spending and you're
too frighted to risk a fringe Islamist party running for election in a tiny levantine state)


And as for those who don't think we should intervene because they can't think of anything useful my advice is this: Perhaps you can't think of anything useful because this is not something you do for a living, it's not a core competency of yours. Perhaps?

Clearly I'm not in that game. But if the USA decided that they were going to hit every moving Syrian Army vehicle simultaneously at two in the afternoon on a Thursday, I imagine they could pull that off. America has trouble fighting insurgents but they can stomp on any green army in the world for almost no losses. It's what they do and they are very geared up right now. If I were a Syrian Army Colonel I would be shitting myself with fear contemplating that particular future.
posted by fingerbang at 10:30 AM on August 25, 2013


One thing you can absolutely rely on is that if the US starts 'intervening', everything will get worse for everyone really fast. Most countries would be better off run by Al Qaeda than Uncle Sam.
posted by colie at 10:31 AM on August 25, 2013


The thing is that the people who are trying to push Obama into intervening in Syria don't actually give a fuck about Syria.
They want to start a war with Iran.
Iran is the Christmas bonus.
posted by adamvasco at 10:32 AM on August 25, 2013


And as for those who don't think we should intervene because they can't think of anything useful my advice is this: Perhaps you can't think of anything useful because this is not something you do for a living, it's not a core competency of yours. Perhaps?

again, it's not the anti-interventionist's burden to prove that intervention is useful, it's the pro-interventionist's
posted by pyramid termite at 10:32 AM on August 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


America can crater every airfield in Syria, bomb the shit out of the Baathist command and control, and enforce a no fly zone, all with very little risk to American life.

Yes, because the Iraqi no-fly zones worked wonders.

Again, what is truly remarkable here is that debate is purely over what bombs to use. Any idea of a diplomatic solution (particularly the sort offered by the sneaky Ruskies) cannot even be entertained any more. This kind of deep militarization of the populace, which is really only possible after the people have already been pushed into a war or five, must be simply irresistible to the powerful. War is the health of the state because it is so reliable. All it takes is one hit and if you do it right the first one is free. After that you've got them. What else offers such enormous dividends?
posted by nixerman at 10:34 AM on August 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, if an extreme Islamist regime takes over who do you think they might be targeting? Do you still feel invulnerable?

Jesus I'm sick of hearing this bullshit.

Do you know why they might be targeting the US? Do you have any understanding that every time the US gets involved, we wind up the bad guys in the entire region? Do you understand why? There is deep history of US meddling and destruction all around the world. All of our "helping" eventually is revealed for exactly what it is, and always somehow after the epic tales of death and destruction US tax dollars sow all over every nation we step in to "help."

If I run over and kill your entire family in my armored humvee to stop your 2 year old from walking into traffic, have I saved your 2 year old? Or killed your entire family? Or both?

Do you know why they're not going after Canada? No terrorism in Canada. They're not tying themselves in knots making themselves "safe" or "secure." I wonder why that is.

Still feel so much like interfering?
posted by nevercalm at 10:37 AM on August 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


...and are what WE ended up doing the LAST time we 'intervened' someplace.

Yes, and that was wrong. Your point is?

Sorry, I thought it was perfectly obvious. Why on Earth should anybody believe that it's going to go better this time? When you're having a problem with your country being run by war profiteers, and you've made an ungodly mess out of an entire region of the globe, sponsored coups, supported every grisly dictator, made the wrong choice every time, and abandoned every principle you imagine yourself to hold dear, with a toll of innocent lives in the tens or hundreds of thousands at least, might it not be a good idea to sit this kind of thing out for a little while, while you get your shit together? That was my point.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 10:39 AM on August 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


I hope you're ("you" being the US) not preparing to bomb Syria out of some notion of self-defence? That some radicals being given the reins in Syria would pose a serious threat to the US? The old Lincoln quote still holds: All the armies of Europe and Asia...could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. There is no conceivable way a country like Syria could damage the US, unless you do it for them, re: every stupid anti-terrorism program you've inflicted on yourself the last ten or so years.
posted by Harald74 at 10:44 AM on August 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't see why it's always American troops though. We spend huge amounts of tax payer dollars so other countries can stay at home.

Is there no-where the US can get advice? No-one you can talk with? You take far too much upon yourselves.
posted by de at 10:46 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why on Earth should anybody believe that it's going to go better this time?

Because American intervention goes sour when it has boots on foreign soil, or when massive corporate interests are at stake. The very short list of cases where neither of those factors were in the mix also happens to perfectly overlap the very short list of cases where American intervention did the world some good.

You will never, ever see one of these cases when a right wing administration is in power, and only rarely when the left is. None of this automatically means doing nothing forwards the interests of the human race.
posted by Ryvar at 10:46 AM on August 25, 2013


Because American intervention goes sour when it has boots on foreign soil, or when massive corporate interests are at stake.

I can't recall a single successful armed intervention that didn't involved putting boots on foreign soil. Has never happened, will never happen. Maybe you don't factor in military advisers, instructors, special forces and such? The US cannot fight wars without corporate interests getting involved. Everything from arms manufacturing to logistics involve corporate interests.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:12 AM on August 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


As somewhat of a cynical idealist, I find it so sad the United States--populated by so many well meaning and oftentimes selfless people--has been run for so many, many years by tools of wealthy and powerful special interests who will stop at nothing, it seems, to get their way. I so much want to believe the US Government, but when you see the history of lies...just in the last fifty years...used to get "us" into war, it makes it difficult to trust. This, I suppose, is one reason for the "war on leaks," to cover up the lies. But from the Gulf of Tonkin fakery, through the WMD lies about Iraq . . . to who knows what... And add Israel to the mix, and all the covert "non-governmental" operatives surely on the ground in Syria.... It certainly is not at all impossible that the gassing was a "false flag" operation.... With the media kept at bay, and weak in any event, there is no source.. no independent source, to look to. Those claiming it was the opposition, or Israel, or another "false flag" operation are all so much more suspect than the US government..

It is all just sad. How can we know what is the right thing to do when we, the mere citizens who suffer the losses of any action, are regularly kept in the dark or lied to? I want to believe something.

If I knew it was the Syrian regime that did this attack, I'd be for intense US action.... I think.
posted by swlabr at 11:18 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because American intervention goes sour when it has boots on foreign soil, or when massive corporate interests are at stake. The very short list of cases where neither of those factors were in the mix also happens to perfectly overlap the very short list of cases where American intervention did the world some good.

Grant that a US intervention succeeds brilliantly in deposing the Assad regime and installing the rebels in control of Syria. The rebels in Syria are dominated by Islamic radicals aligned with Al-Qaeda i.e. terrorists. Why would anyone advocate the use of US power to install such a group into power? So, we can immediately turn around and wage war on the new government of Syria?

Even if you believe American military power would be effective, the goal of removing Assad makes no sense.

The US foreign policy establishment isn't completely moronic. Again, the point of going to war in Syria is to provoke a response which will force a war with Iran. (Iran has repeatedly made "red line" comments about US intervention in Syria.) Removing the Iranian government would clear all the plates off the table in the middle east and outweighs the cost of having violent Islamic radicals in control of the government in Syria.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:22 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


All of this... all of this is just playing Against a Dark Background...

This is the way it will go...

On... and on...

Until we ourselves are no more...

Our Human Legacy...

Maybe the machines will remember us more kindly?
posted by PROD_TPSL at 11:29 AM on August 25, 2013


> the "war on leaks,"

I had taken to calling it the "war on good" in my mind, then it really should be the axis of good. I'll adopt the "war on leaks".
posted by de at 11:31 AM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


American intervention goes sour when it has boots on foreign soil, or when massive corporate interests are at stake.

Massive corporate interests will be at stake in this case, and all forseeable future cases, because this is the business we're in now. Justifying our defense budget, so the people who are rolling in it can keep rolling in it.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 11:52 AM on August 25, 2013


Advocating non-interferance is the same as supporting Assad's eventual wholesale massacre of everyone who livesin rebel-held areas.

Non-interventionism is objectively pro-SaddamAssad!

This was a BS argument when it came to Iraq and it is a BS argument now. Which isn't to say there shouldn't be consequences if it is proven Syria launched a large scale chemical weapons attack. But this argument is wrong-headed, false, and speaks poorly of the one making the argument.
posted by Justinian at 11:56 AM on August 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


All in favor of an intervention, here is a link to the US Army recruiting site

Put up or shut up.

Make a case, I'll listen, but if you aren't willing to go do it yourself as well, I don't see why some 20 year old from the south should be forced to go for 4 tours in the mideast with no real chance of success.

We just did this 10 years ago, and we're going to be paying for it for generations to come.

We broke our country, I think we need to wait this one out. I don't trust any of the US government interests to pick the right side here.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 11:58 AM on August 25, 2013 [18 favorites]


I too agree that our country is fundamentally broken in a number of ways. I feel that our stated role as the policeman of the planet is a noble goal, but the reality of the situation always turns out to be the opposite.

Interventionists, after you go to the website of whatever branch of the military you choose to sign yourself and/or your family up for, think about this...if we take the time now to finally fix all the things in our country that our various misadventures around the globe have prevented us in very real, concrete (sorry about the pun) ways from addressing, we'll be in a much better position as a moral, strong, prosperous nation - an actually moral, strong, prosperous nation and not the image of one with a rotten undercarriage - to take care of things in the future.

But now, we are merely putting out long smoldering fires we set a long time ago. And when your house is on fire because some arsonist put a coal in the corner and blew on it for 20 years, do you want the arsonist to put it out? Or the fire department?
posted by nevercalm at 12:05 PM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


but if we want to make absolutely sure that despots everywhere can sleep a little more soundly, and that people trying to overthrow dictators can't depend on us to even enforce our own phony little "red lines" then doing nothing is absolutely the right move.

Far more Iraqis died as a result of our "liberation" than because of dictator Saddam post the first Gulf War. It's amazing this "liberation" bullshit still works after Iraq.

How's this: whatever comes after Assad is likely going to be worse MUCH worse than Assad has ever been in his wildest dreams. If you think Assad is bad, wait until the fundies get ahold of that government. It's the exact same pattern as with Saddam - he was unquestionably a monster, but women's rights, education for all and a secular space were all lost as a result of this criminal war. Not to mention hundreds of thousands dead and displaced. Assad is a less violent version of Saddam from that point of view. For a preview of what to expect from the fundie bunch post Assad, look to what happened in Afghanistan under their fundies (and to whom we are proceeding to lose after all this time).

We have NO moral, strategic, humanitarian, grounds for a military intervention in Syria. On each of those points, we will make it worse by deploying our military.

The only thing that surprises me, is that anyone in the Middle East who sees the insane bloodlust coming out of the U.S., isn't building nuclear weapons as fast as they can.

Iranians better hope they are fast enough with that, before our inevitable "liberation" reaches their shores.
posted by VikingSword at 12:10 PM on August 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


This may be naive but I wonder whether we couldn't help evacuate whoever wants to be evacuated and give them refugee status with potential for citizenship in the USA or other volunteer nation.
posted by Salamandrous at 12:12 PM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


yes . yes . yes
posted by de at 12:15 PM on August 25, 2013


nononono.
This may be naive but I wonder whether we couldn't help evacuate whoever wants to be evacuated and give them refugee status with potential for citizenship in the USA or other volunteer nation.
posted by Salamandrous

perhaps have them come to Detroit?

All in favor of an intervention, here is a link to the US Army recruiting site

Put up or shut up.
Make a case, I'll listen, but if you aren't willing to go do it yourself as well, I don't see why some 20 year old from the south should be forced to go for 4 tours in the mideast with no real chance of success.


Some don't need to join, some "man" up and go. and they die.

I just done made your case and you lost.
posted by clavdivs at 12:30 PM on August 25, 2013


All in favor of an intervention, here is a link to the US Army recruiting site

/thread.
posted by colie at 12:46 PM on August 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


No, one was a made up atrocity. One is a true atrocity. Which is which Jack? Do you need help with that?

I cannot believe metafilter is doing 'oh noes bad bad guy is killing kiddie-widdies so we need to bomb him! Democracy!'
posted by colie at 12:48 PM on August 25, 2013


Advocating non-interferance is the same as supporting Assad's eventual wholesale massacre of everyone who livesin rebel-held areas.

I know! Your US warships send in some cruise missiles to blow up Assad (and several hundred civilians who happen to live in his immediate vicinity).

Then, since there really is no moral distinction between the regime and the Al Qaeda militias, the Russians send in some cruise missiles to decapitate the opposition leadership, and several hundred (give or take a thousand) civilians in the general neighbourhood.

Or, is there a another model for "intervention"? Boots on ground, followed by a random retaliatory nerve gas attack by Team A or Team B?
posted by KokuRyu at 12:53 PM on August 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


well...that does sum it up KokuRyu. I was thinking could we not just sell some bombs to who and when but ah, ya.
posted by clavdivs at 12:55 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


> All in favor of an intervention, here is a link to the US Army recruiting site /thread.

Does it have to be Army? I'm not really down with living in dorms and morning runs. However, I know how to use a PS3 controller and am well suited for drone piloting. Let's do this.
posted by planetesimal at 12:56 PM on August 25, 2013


However, I know how to use a PS3 controller and am well suited for drone piloting.

Although you may have to take public transport in a major city afterwards, so according to Hitchens you are in the front line of combat duty against the turrsts.
posted by colie at 1:01 PM on August 25, 2013


I can't help but wonder what benefit the Syrian military gets out of gassing people.

A) It seemed like they were getting the upper hand in the conflict with traditional weapons.
B) They are better armed, trained, and supplied.
C) Chemical weapons aren't all that effective, in terms of acheiving strategic, military goals. Rebel fighters will likely acquire gas masks, whereas civilians will continue to suffer.

What's the plus side for them, big enough to risk a foreign intervention?
posted by cacofonie at 1:07 PM on August 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


de: "> the "war on leaks,"

I had taken to calling it the "war on good" in my mind, then it really should be the axis of good. I'll adopt the "war on leaks".
"

Aye. And it's in the Bible, verily.

"34 For in very deed as the LORD God of Israel lives, who has kept me back from hurting thee, except thou hadst hastened and come to meet me, surely there had not been left unto Nabal by the morning light any that piss against the wall."
posted by symbioid at 1:13 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Heathen that I am, even I know it's 'pisseth'.
posted by de at 1:20 PM on August 25, 2013


Well yes, I went with a more readable translation ;)
posted by symbioid at 1:22 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


nevercalm--Islamic fundamentalist have successfully targeted Spain, Scotland, England, Germany, Denmark, France, Indonesia, India, Phiilipines--It is not just a result of American meddling/intervening in the Mid East. USA is a prime target but it is not an USA alone issue.
posted by rmhsinc at 1:32 PM on August 25, 2013


... but it is not an USA alone issue.

So it is highly unlikely USA has a solution.
posted by de at 1:37 PM on August 25, 2013


I am not addressing that issue--I seriously doubt if there is a solution that is politically, militarily or morally acceptable. Just saying terrorism by Islamic fundamentalists is not a uniquely American problem. Also, Islamic controlled states probably like any religiously controlled states ) do not have exactly stellar records of human rights.

History of Terrorist attacks from Wikipedia--just a list that is all. Please do not tell me America is a greater terrorist--it may or may not be--just trying to correct a statement that America is uniquely targeted because of its foreign policy
posted by rmhsinc at 1:45 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


nevercalm--Islamic fundamentalist have successfully targeted Spain, Scotland, England, Germany, Denmark, France, Indonesia, India, Phiilipines--It is not just a result of American meddling/intervening in the Mid East. USA is a prime target but it is not an USA alone issue.

How much terrorism was coming out of Iraq prior to our "liberation", and how much post? How much are you willing to bet that there's been more terrorism coming out of Syria under Assad, than will be under whatever murderous bunch takes over after our murderous "liberation"?

How much terrorism would there be if we never meddled all these decades? How much less will there be if we stop meddling now, versus how much will there be if we persist in liberating ever new countries, this time Syria, next Iran and so on. And then after we've exhausted every country possible, we can start the circle all over again, because you just know that Afghanistan is coming back, Iraq is coming back and Lebanon too, all the chickens home to roost.

I like how we go fuck it up somewhere for people to the point that they are willing to explode themselves just to get back at us, and then when they do, whelp, that's new justification, because now we have to fight "terrorism". Seems a surefire way to never ending War On Terror - self-perpetuating, self-justifying, everlasting.
posted by VikingSword at 1:48 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sounds like the administration has already ruled out a no-fly zone. The consequences look like they're going to be "STOP! Or I'll say STOP again!".
posted by Justinian at 1:51 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


vikingsword--lot of passionate words, questions but not much data. Look, I am not arguing about Iraq--the simple fact, yes fact, is that Islamic terrorism is not, and has not, been a uniquely American problem. Disagree if you want but please post some relevant facts as I have attempted.
posted by rmhsinc at 1:56 PM on August 25, 2013


I don't really care if a bunch of people engaged in slaughter find us less manly for not doing the same. And I have to think there's a lot of that fear of looking weak underlying the compulsion so many feel to go in guns a-blazin.

US intervention should only be of the supporting negotiation/calling for ceasefires/aiding refugees flavor, not providing yet more bombs, bullets, and soldiers. Why do we think adding blood to that already spilled is going to help? We should act, but we should do so in a way that actually has long-term positive effects, that sees the Syrian people as allies to be won, not as targets.

This means either bloody Assad or bloody jihadists end up in power, but that's going to happen anyway. There isn't anyone else. And we can't bomb the Syrians into embracing freedom. We might be able to help in other ways, long-term, through aid and diplomacy, but military action is a road that leads nowhere but down.
posted by emjaybee at 2:02 PM on August 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Islamic terrorism is not, and has not, been a uniquely American problem

Nope, not uniquely American. Various European countries had their role in North Africa and the origin of terrorism there too. Btw., when Algerians were fighting for independence from France, they were widely called "terrorists". It's funny how so many countries that have been some of the most fertile ground for terrorism have a common factor: intervention by foreign powers, whether direct like in Iraq, or indirect over the span of decades, like Saudi Arabia. It's the same, regardless of the actors involved - Russia and Chechnya, anyone?

Not that Europe limited itself to North Africa, and neither did we. Afghanistan is a Russia-created problem to begin with (is Russia considered part of Europe?), but then of course we could not resist, and double-tripled-quadrupled the whole joy when we "liberated" Afghanistan from the Russians with plenty, but plenty of terrorists... oops! Oh yeah, Pakistan had a role there too - with our connivance, funds and support -but then, the pathology that is Pakistan has deep roots with America going back decades.

But good news - we skipped whole continents in our terrorist creation too. No terrorists in Australia, or the Antarctica.
posted by VikingSword at 2:08 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


but I still can't wrap my head around (what is to me) the paradox of "legal warfare"

Legal warfare is not a paradox if you think in terms of economics. Threat to your own economic gains relative to your enemies losses.

The power holders seldom have to concern themselves with human costs.
posted by notreally at 2:16 PM on August 25, 2013


I would love for Obama to say that the power to declare war resides in Congress along with the power to fund such a war and that congress has not authorized a war nor has it funded such a thing. It would be a great precedent for the country and restore a measure of constitutional authority on these matters.
posted by humanfont at 2:18 PM on August 25, 2013 [15 favorites]


VikingSword--Australia. right you are although there have been arrests and convictions of "Islamic" terrorists. I know that is questionable but they appear to be warranted. Antarctica--thank heavens. Actually, I was surprised by the number of Islamic attacks in China. I will disagree with what appears to be a theme that much of the terrorism in the result of meddling/invasions by other countries but I do not know enough to argue this cogently. the fact is, I have a deep deep mistrust of almost ( if not all ) religious fundamentalism.
posted by rmhsinc at 2:18 PM on August 25, 2013


It's like people have zero historical memory. How glad are you that we decided to "liberate" Afghanistan from Russia? We used terrorists - plain under any definition ever used by the U.S. - terrorists... who weren't even "our terrorists", since they hated our guts just as bad if not worse. We used Pakistan in this venture too - how happy are we now with how that went? We were all for Saudi Arabia financing and exporting jihadists to Afghanistan too - how happy are we with that blowback?

But we remember NOTHING.

Because right now we're happy to provide support to "liberators" from Al-Qaeda and other vicious terror groups in Syria, and happy for Saudi Arabia to finance more, and gearing up to intervene directly. Because the lessons of Afghanistan - or Iraq - were too long ago. And we, in America have historical memories of about 5 minutes.

Oh, and don't worry - we've been financing terrorists in Iran for years - proud of it even, as bombs went off killing people in Iran. That'll end well too.
posted by VikingSword at 2:21 PM on August 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


I have a real question (as opposed to snark) for interventionists: How many of our interventions have to go really badly before it makes intervening in anything short of a serious threat to the nation or one of our allies seem like a bad idea? I've argued before that people in favor of interventions usually look at the results if things go perfectly to judge whether we should intervene or not. But things never go perfectly. You need to look at the possible results if it turns into a clusterfuck to judge if it's something we should do.
posted by Justinian at 2:21 PM on August 25, 2013


Mention of moral lines with respect to chemical weapons seems a bit lacking without bringing up our own use of white phosphorous just recently.
posted by odinsdream at 2:47 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


>I saw ths most disturbing video last night on the news. A grieving man, holding his two dead toddlers, sobbing uncontrollably--victims of nerve gas apparently. I just lost it. I don't know what to think anymore.

Nor do I.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:01 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


All in favor of an intervention, here is a link to the US Army recruiting site

Put up or shut up.
Seriously, let's not make "arguments" like this. It's lazy posturing and it does no good.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 3:20 PM on August 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


That specific formulation of the argument, yes. But it's not posturing to point out that it's very easy to agitate for sending young men and women into serious mortal danger when you're not one of the people being sent into danger and, usually, neither is anyone you particularly care about.
posted by Justinian at 3:32 PM on August 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Max Fisher from the Washington Post lays out a fairly strong case that Obama will not attack Syria.
posted by humanfont at 3:47 PM on August 25, 2013


We won't intervene. The people here on Metafilter can rest easy with all the comforts they've gained from past interventions, with no worry that the West will make any attempt to clean up the mess they've made of the world.
posted by happyroach at 4:00 PM on August 25, 2013


So what's needed to clean up the messes of previous interventions is... more interventions? Isn't that like trying to sober up by opening a fresh bottle?
posted by fatbird at 4:09 PM on August 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, we haven't even agreed on what we mean by 'intervention' but what the hell. It seems that when a 'dictator for life' launches nerve gas attacks on civilians all the American "Ffffrreedom and Brraaavery" stuff turns out to be just bluster.... All those speeches, all that posturing, all that money spent and all those American flag wraps on your SUV's.

But when it comes down to a little bit of fucking you're afraid to stick it in.
posted by fingerbang at 4:12 PM on August 25, 2013


This thread is becoming massively stupid. Stick to facts and links, and maybe skip the increasingly dumber generalizations and vague calls for destruction.
posted by planetesimal at 4:15 PM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, eponysterical.
posted by planetesimal at 4:16 PM on August 25, 2013


"Gentlemen, it's imperative that we launch cruise missiles immediately so that Fingerbang doesn't think we've got a small dick."
posted by fatbird at 4:16 PM on August 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Perhaps as a change, if there's discussion about actually deploying the military here it should be outlined specifically what the end goals are and whether they can be reasonably achieved via the forces that we're willing to commit. I'll admit that I don't see anything that could even be vaguely related to a "win" for us coming out of getting in the middle of this mess.
posted by CaffinatedOne at 4:23 PM on August 25, 2013


American "Ffffrreedom and Brraaavery" stuff turns out to be just bluster.... All those speeches, all that posturing, all that money spent and all those American flag wraps on your SUV's.

Amazing how some people imagine it's America's dog-given right and obligation to police the world. I'll worry about Ffffrrredom and Brrraavery when we are actually attacked by actual military force, and then it may be appropriate to respond with our military.

All the Ffffreedom and Brrraavery bs and American flag wraps on SUVs - in the service of attacking other countries that had fuckall to do with us, comes from the neo-cons and assorted imperial dreamers, and I only wish were "just bluster". Instead, it's a blood-drenched criminal enterprise having nothing, but nothing to do with the mission our military should be properly used for - the defense - that is DEFENSE of our country.

"All that money" I wish were spent to feed hungry people in this country, repair our infrastructure, finance education and buy butter instead of guns. But I guess Eisenhower was overly optimistic.

But when it comes down to a little bit of fucking you're afraid to stick it in.

I think we've done enough of fucking from Vietnam to Iraq. Time to stick the dick back in the pants and zipper up.
posted by VikingSword at 4:30 PM on August 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


[Folks, let's let the "go join the military GO WHY ARE YOU STILL POSTING" rhetoric aside for a while, it does nothing to improve the discourse. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 4:35 PM on August 25, 2013


Well, I think the point makes sense, but it too restricted. It could be more clearly made by simply saying that some people here are detached from the realities of war. A lot of the general statements here are obviously from people who are completely dissociated from the issue and have no intention of materially supporting an intervention. It's like a high stakes version of Civilization to them.

Now, the same argument could be made in reverse -- and there is validity to that -- but only one side is encouraging us (the US) to go out and kill people (again).
posted by smidgen at 4:39 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


bottlebrushtree: as I said before,the line to enlist starts right over there, you in or are you going to let someone else who didn't have the luxury in not joining the military go in your place?

You do realize that you've just asked someone to enlist only because they think it's a BS argument for you to dismiss your opponents because they haven't enlisted?
posted by cosmic.osmo at 4:43 PM on August 25, 2013


Restricting opinions about when a nation should go to war to the subset of people excited enough to volunteer seems contrary to the idea of a civilian democracy.
posted by humanfont at 4:46 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


And I did enlist (years ago) does that make me more right? Can it, can it? Pleeeez!
posted by fingerbang at 4:47 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The plot thickens.
posted by chavenet at 4:48 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]



> You do realize that you've just asked someone to enlist only because they think it's a BS argument > for you to dismiss your opponents because they haven't enlisted?

No, it means my family went to war in Iraq, came back broken and thrown away, and I'm seeing the same saber rattling again.

Same playbook. Same players. Same credit card. Same American populace with no skin in the game.

It shouldn't happen again.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 4:53 PM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Restricting opinions about when a nation should go to war to the subset of people excited enough to volunteer seems contrary to the idea of a civilian democracy.

While acknowledging the idea that it's a bit of a rhetorical cheat to use this tack, it is incredibly shitty to argue for war if you aren't in fact willing to fight. War is what's damaging to a civilian democracy, and being able to wage a war with literally no personal risk is a severe problem.
posted by odinsdream at 4:58 PM on August 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Syria is a client state of Russia, huh? Even if they pulled out their people? Let them mount whatever punitive expedition the UNSC resolution authorizes, if Putin will even allow it. Putin's not gonna? Well shit. Nothing — nothing — realistically can be done without approval from Russia. Unilateral, or even NATO, action in Syria definitely turns the eschatostat another notch or two towards World War III.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:18 PM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think that before the U.S. decides to "intervene" in any other countries we should probably try to figure out what went wrong in previous interventions. This seems very unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Obama DOJ Asks Court to Grant Immunity to George W. Bush For Iraq War
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:31 PM on August 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Settle down, no-ones asking you to invade. In fact I would seriously oppose that move. But there is an almost limitless range of options that can dramatically alter the calculus.

And as for the idea that the we can't kill Assad because something something international law. Well this guy is also the de-facto military leader and head of the armed forces, along with his family. He's a soldier.

And these rules are designed to protect democratically elected politicians in time of war, not to prop up the president for life, who was, in turn installed by HIS father, the previous president for life who ruled the place for 30 years with an impressive 97.3% of the popular vote. FFS

And when this guy is threatened with losing power he deploys nerve gas on populated suburban areas. You may not think this crosses some kind of border into criminality but I do. It is a war crime and a terrible one.

And you still think the majesty of International Law forbids you from acting, in case you, you what.....do something morally wrong? Hah!

Money, training, leadership, intel, connections and more money. When you have skin in the game you get to influence the outcome. Walk away and you're rolling the dice.
posted by fingerbang at 5:35 PM on August 25, 2013


As far as I can tell the ongoing civil wars in the DRC^ during the last few decades have killed millions of people, going on half the number of casualties from World War I at this point, and it's seldom even mentioned in U.S. news sources. So if the U.S. becomes involved in Syria I will have great difficulty believing that the actual underlying interest is in stopping atrocities or alleviating suffering, whether or not the enthusiasm of Mr. "Bomb bomb Iran"^ and other Iran hawks is as transparently telling as it seems to be.
posted by XMLicious at 5:37 PM on August 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's pretty ingenuous of the U.S. government to try and pretend that we have any moral high ground in this issue. Right now Syria is the way it is specifically because of U.S. meddling. The rebels would have been defeated a long time ago if not for the assistance of the C.I.A. and special forces. Of course the Assad regime is going to kill civilians...that's what happens when you corner a wounded animal...it lashes out. The real question is who did the cornering, and why? It's pretty clear what is going on here given where the money and weapons funding the rebels are coming from. The endgame is Iran and this is a very dangerous game that the U.S., Israel, and Gulf States are playing.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:38 PM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


When you have skin in the game you get to influence the outcome.

Which is exactly why this video exists.
posted by fatbird at 5:39 PM on August 25, 2013


> Well, if an extreme Islamist regime takes over who do you think they might be targeting? Do you still feel invulnerable?

Oh, my gosh, I really did laugh out loud at this one.

Are you telling me that if an extreme Islamist regime takes over that they're going to invade the United States? Or, wait, don't tell me.... terrorists?

The US has HALF the weapons in the world. I'm much more frightened about all the people with guns within a few miles of me rather than a country with the GDP that is less than 5% that of the state of California somehow "targeting" the United States.

Since when did living in fear of tinpot dictatorships become an acceptable thing?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:43 PM on August 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


ongoing civil wars

There was also the Angolan Civil War, which spanned 4 U.S. presidential administrations.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:57 PM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, and should the United States interfere? Of course not. Perhaps God is dead, but He certainly didn't leave his mantle to the United States. The United States has no legal right to intervene by international law, and after the literally millions of dead people from the last few decades of intervention, it certainly has no moral right.

When it comes to screwing with the world, people should remember the centuries-old phrase, "Primum non nocere" - "First, do no harm".

Yes, Syria is a country in turmoil - if it were a person, they'd be "very ill". Imagine there was a sick person in your block. Would you be justified in bursting in and performing emergency surgery? Particularly if you made a habit of doing this, and nearly all your patients died or were crippled?

The WORLD should be doing this - and only if absolutely necessary. The United Nations is the ONLY global force, and they are the unique and only people who have the legal or the moral right to intervene. It's a terrible shame that the United States has spent the last 30 years shitting on and mocking the United Nations, but that's more a symptom of the profound sickness that has overtaken the United States than any well-formed argument against the existence or charter of the UN.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:59 PM on August 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


Why should we expect a US intervention into sectarian conflict in the Middle East to be any better this time? Seriously?
posted by wuwei at 6:31 PM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The people here on Metafilter can rest easy with all the comforts they've gained from past interventions, with no worry that the West will make any attempt to clean up the mess they've made of the world.

this is appallingly stupid and ill-informed - it wasn't the west who caused a schism between sunni and shia, which the current conflict is becoming - that happened over a thousand years ago while the west was still struggling to figure out how to preserve the art of writing and maintain governments that were any better than a bunch of thugs from the forests deciding to raid civilization for fun and profit

the west hasn't helped - it's done much to make the situation worse - but in this particular instance, the roots go much deeper than anything we've done there
posted by pyramid termite at 6:38 PM on August 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


The United Nations is the ONLY global force, and they are the unique and only people who have the legal or the moral right to intervene

The reverence implied by those words would be servile if a Catholic said them about his Pope.

The United Nations is an organization made up of human beings, with all that this entails.
posted by ocschwar at 6:49 PM on August 25, 2013


> The United Nations is an organization made up of human beings, with all that this entails.

Absolutely, and they've made a right cock-up of things in the past, I agree.

I'm not saying that the UN is super-great - I'm saying that they are what we have to deal with international issues such as this. Their record is certainly better than the record of the US's unassisted interventions, specifically Iraq, Central and South America, South-East Asia...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:55 PM on August 25, 2013


Why does Western intervention have to default to the U.S. leading the charge? What about France? They've still got a well-equipped military and nuclear weapons. They still meddle about in former colonial states. Syria was once their territory. Perhaps they and Turkey should work on a plan to stabilize it for European interests, and the U.S. can sit this one out.
posted by Apocryphon at 7:08 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]



I'm not saying that the UN is super-great - I'm saying that they are what we have to deal with international issues such as this. Their record is certainly better than the record of the US's unassisted interventions, specifically Iraq, Central and South America, South-East Asia...


Uh, dude, that clusterfuck known is the Congo civil war, was with UN involvement the entire time.
posted by ocschwar at 7:25 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Apocryphon: Nobody can project enough power to overwhelm Syria the way the USA could. Without us it simply doesn't happen. The most effective way to project conventional power is with aircraft carrier fleets and most people don't realize how overwhelming the USA's advantage in naval assets is.

For comparison, the USA has 10 Nimitz class nuclear carriers in active service. They each displace over 100,000mt of water. The only other country in the entire world with a nuclear carrier is France. They have one carrier. It displaces 42,000mt, less than half that of a single Nimitz class carrier. Russia has one conventional carrier. It displaces half that of a Nimitz. And so on.

The USA is the first and last word in projecting significant power across the globe. France or the UK can sort of project power against a nation without a significant military but I believe Syria's air defense network is still relatively robust. So it's us or nobody.

Which is why it's gonna be nobody.
posted by Justinian at 7:36 PM on August 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


tl;dr - the USA has something like three times the tonnage of carriers in active service as the rest of the world combined. The rest of the world has 1 tiny nuclear carrier. USA has 10 gigantic supersized ones.
posted by Justinian at 7:38 PM on August 25, 2013


it wasn't the west who caused a schism between sunni and shia

Focusing on ethnic / racial identity is a Western and US preoccupation. The differences between Sunnis and Shia, Arabs and Jews, Tutsis and Hutus - all that stuff - is a relic of colonialism, an -ism itself born out of an age of social and racial Darwinism.

The ethnic and religious conflicts you see being played out across the globe, and this includes the Sunni and Shia violence in Iraq and now Syria, is a direct result of European and American intervention during the past 150 years.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:49 PM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Focusing on ethnic / racial identity is a Western and US preoccupation. The differences between Sunnis and Shia, Arabs and Jews, Tutsis and Hutus - all that stuff - is a relic of colonialism, an -ism itself born out of an age of social and racial Darwinism.

Apart from the Tutsis and Hutus, this is contrary to my understanding - for example, in Japan, which you're clearly an expert on, has focus on ethnic and racial identities simply been the product of Western and U.S. influence? As far as my reading of history and cultures has gleaned (admittedly entirely amateur and English-only reading) there has been an acute awareness of and attention to racial and class and sectarian distinctions from Ancient Egypt down through to the present day. This has been moderated a bit in extensive multi-cultural polities like the Mongol or Ottoman or Austro-Hungarian Empires but only a little bit.

Certainly the late colonialism in the Middle East has exacerbated sectarian conflict - as well as just about every societal problem - but it does not at all seem true that ethnic and racial tensions or violence in the world derive purely from Western and U.S. influence and culture.
posted by XMLicious at 8:15 PM on August 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


History suggests that Sunni's and Shi'ites conflict predates the era of Western Colonialism.
posted by humanfont at 8:21 PM on August 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


>for example, in Japan, which you're clearly an expert on, has focus on ethnic and racial identities simply been the product of Western and U.S. influence?

I'm no expert, but, yeah, it is totally. All that nationalist stuff - State Shinto etc - dates back to the romantic nationalism of Europe of the mid- to late-19th Century, when you had nationalists in various European countries trying to determine and promote what made a uniquely national and ethnic character.

The revolutionaries of Japan, who seized control from the Bakufu (the shogunate) adopted all of this racist, ethno-centrist, and social Darwinist mumbo-jumbo bullshit. They imported from Europe, which was at that time engaged in the White Man's Burden of the scramble for Africa, back to Japan.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:33 PM on August 25, 2013


From an American perspective, I may be out on a limb here, but whatever. Americans, even now, are so obsessed with race!
posted by KokuRyu at 8:35 PM on August 25, 2013



The ethnic and religious conflicts you see being played out across the globe, and this includes the Sunni and Shia violence in Iraq and now Syria, is a direct result of European and American intervention during the past 150 years.


It's also a direct result of a disagreement about who should replace the Prophet Mohammed that literally began before Mo assumed room temperature.

It's also the direct result of Middle Easterners who used these ethnic and religious rifts for their own purposes, before, during, and after various interventions.

We're all colliding with each other in a tumbler that orbits the sun.
posted by ocschwar at 8:37 PM on August 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Apocryphon: Nobody can project enough power to overwhelm Syria the way the USA could. Without us it simply doesn't happen. The most effective way to project conventional power is with aircraft carrier fleets and most people don't realize how overwhelming the USA's advantage in naval assets is.

Um, holy crap.

Welp, I learned something from this thread. Thanks, Justinian.
posted by Ryvar at 8:49 PM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Um, holy crap.

What the hell? Russia has an aircraft carrier?
posted by odinsdream at 8:54 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The differences between Sunnis and Shia[...]is a relic of colonialism.

The ethnic / cultural conflict between Persia and its neighbours goes back well before the West existed. Sunni / Shia is just the latest expression of that.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:58 PM on August 25, 2013


I'm no expert, but, yeah, it is totally. All that nationalist stuff - State Shinto etc - dates back to the romantic nationalism of Europe of the mid- to late-19th Century, when you had nationalists in various European countries trying to determine and promote what made a uniquely national and ethnic character.

So, like... were the Ainu treated the same as everyone else before Western influence appeared in Japan? I had thought that Japanese culture was always quite stratified and even internally was broken down into groups like the eta / burakumin... but you're saying that despite that they were all Steven-Colbert-like and race-blind when it came to other ethnicities before they tasted the apple of Western Knowledge? ;^)

But seriously, I would entirely agree that European and American orientalism and other obtuseness was quite weird and that we project / projected all those distorted ideas onto our colonies, with things like Britain's colonial caste system in India, I just don't think the notion of racial and ethnic distinctions and prejudices was at all a new thing in those cases. And in particular I'm pretty sure that as others have said the sectarian distinction and tension between Shia, Sunni, and other Muslim groups was present and quite pronounced long before the Great Powers started carving up the Ottoman Empire.
posted by XMLicious at 9:02 PM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is the Syrian war really a sectarian conflict, though? Assad seems to have been fairly successful at spinning it that way, but it seems pretty simple, as these things go: The people of a nation are rising against up an oppressive authoritarian regime. Most of the rebels are Sunnis, simply because most Syrians -- by a pretty wide margin -- are Sunnis. That Assad isn't Sunni is not really as relevant as the fact that he is a crazy asshole who shouldn't be running a country, right?

It's like if Obama were gassing kids, there'd undoubtedly be a lot of racist foment, but the actual beef would be less skin colour than, you know, the part where he gassed the kids.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:12 PM on August 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Syrian chemical attack spurs finger-pointing inside Assad regime
United Nations weapons inspectors will today examine the site of a chemical weapons attack in Damascus that killed hundreds, as the first signs of finger-pointing inside the Assad regime began to emerge. [...]

Amid universal acceptance that a chemical nerve agent has been used but disagreement over who used it, there were indications from Damascus that some of the army officers involved had tried to distance themselves from what happened, and insisted they were not told the rockets they were firing were loaded with toxins.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:15 PM on August 25, 2013


That Assad isn't Sunni is not really as relevant as the fact that he is a crazy asshole who shouldn't be running a country, right?

Not exactly. Like Saddam Hussein staffing his government with Sunnis (a minority in Iraq), Assad is an Alawite and people from that group have dominated Syrian civil life under the reign of the Assads, so there's now 2+ million Alawites terrified of the retribution they'll face once the Sunnis overthrow the government, and so supporting Assad out of a sense of having no one else to support. Kill Assad and you still have a significant faction in a "victory or death" mindset.
posted by fatbird at 9:17 PM on August 25, 2013


Is the Syrian war really a sectarian conflict, though?

It's a whole lot of things. I think you're broadly correct, in that it is a rebellion rather than a schismatic or sectarian war. None the less, many of the rebel groups are typified by their religious and/or ethnic identity and there's a way of looking at conflict in the region generally as being a sort of Great Game between Sunnis and Shiites. I'd say that that perspective offers insights, but it's fundamentally (hah!) false.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:24 PM on August 25, 2013


Syrians split, just like every other nationality, into those who are prepared to give democracy a run for its money and those that are not.

The vast vast majority want the freedom and the security and growth that democracy can deliver and that their current system cannot. Those are the people we need to support and these people cut across all racial, ethnic, religious and political boundaries do they not?

Christ, if you don't play games it's actually kind of hard to fuck up supporting a genuinely popular mass movement. After Vietnam, Iraq and Afghan I'd have thought you'd want to give it a go!
posted by fingerbang at 9:45 PM on August 25, 2013


Oh, it's on: Navy ready to launch first strike on Syria
Britain is planning to join forces with America and launch military action against Syria within days in response to the gas attack believed to have been carried out by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against his own people.

posted by Joe in Australia at 11:42 PM on August 25, 2013


Oh, great. Well hopefully we bomb them hard enough to teach a lesson about how wrong it is to use really lethal and destructive weapons.
posted by XMLicious at 12:22 AM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I do not wish to diminish for one moment the deep and important moral issues here, but there is one much more prosaic yet compelling reason for every one to chill the fuck out: inflation.

There is a very good chance that military action against Syria will draw Iran into a real shooting war with the US or its client states. Should that happen, the price of oil jumps at least 25% overnight (say, to USD 145 to 150 a barrel) due to constricted supply and vastly increased War Risk insurance for transit from the oil producing regions in the Gulf through the Straights of Hormuz.

Oil goes up, so does the US Dollar. The US Dollar appreciates too fast, you get global inflation. Now, not only does "stuff" cost more for regular people, it sends yields throughout the entire securities market up, meaning debt is worth less and costs more. This is bad enough for regular people who have to buy food and pay credit cards. But it gets worse.

A large jump in inflation (although perhaps not a controlled one - different discussion) will wreck the balance sheets of the already barely-stablized banking systems in the EU and US that are still scrambling to comply with Basil III's liquidity requirements, and only god knows what happens then.

I'm obviously not an economist, and I would love to hear a Real Economist chime in. But the above has been my thinking for a while, and I must admit that my (perhaps false) pattern recognition systems are telling me that the timing and details point to someone's idea of an endgame. Why yes, I am paranoid. Then again, I get paid to be, so it kind of works out.
posted by digitalprimate at 1:30 AM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


digitalprimate: given the degree to which the upper class has increasingly taken a no-holds-barred approach to class warfare in the industrialized world (esp. USA/UK) these past few years... I dunno that you're all that paranoid. The problem is that we are rapidly approaching the point where most of our population just isn't necessary for the smooth functioning of society, and that doesn't exactly encourage anybody in power to go out of their way in terms of solving problems that really only affect lower and middle class people.

That said, I'm hopeful that a repeat of our strategy in Libya will avoid drawing us into a major conflict with anybody - and we may soon find out.
posted by Ryvar at 1:42 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Analysis: Who's backing who as Syria's civil war threatens to spread.
Further analysis
The fighting continues because both sides have outside sponsors with different motives than preserving Syrian lives. Those sponsors fuel their Syrian-based proxies with the means to fight while seeking self-serving political aims.
posted by adamvasco at 2:46 AM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow. I'm living in a flashback: U.S. says Syria offer to show chemical attack sites 'too late' Except I thought it was Iraq and nukes? I thought this sort of thing was only supposed to happen if you took drugs. I don't take drugs, do I? Or is this me in the past? Do I take drugs in the future?

Anyway, it's not too late! Call the White House and say that you're from the future and this is a terrible idea which will lead to to the collapse of Syria and the USA's decline. There aren't any WMDs there and your country will look stupid, and it will end up with hundreds of prisoners it can't release but can't put on trial and accusations of torture and ...
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:41 AM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


No kidding Joe in Australia. Just a few minutes ago I was listening to some dumbass "report" on NPR which literally sounded like a repeat of the Iraq discussion.

"We'll use cruise missiles to hit their command and control centers! To avoid civilian casualties and avoid needing to send our troops into harm's way!"
posted by odinsdream at 4:45 AM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


The civilian population will welcome you and great their first democratic elections with joy and excitement.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:48 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


And no kidding, immediately after that the reporter had the nerve to be like "... of course civilian casualties are unavoidable."
posted by odinsdream at 4:49 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah things are quickly getting surreal.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:49 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nobel peace prize my ass.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:50 AM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


Wow. I'm living in a flashback: U.S. says Syria offer to show chemical attack sites 'too late'

To be somewhat fair to the US, they (and others) have been saying from the day the news of the potential chemical attack broke that time was a major limiting factor in actually getting meaningful confirmation.

In other news, the UN inspection team came under sniper fire while on their way to the attack site today.
posted by knapah at 5:06 AM on August 26, 2013


What the hell? Russia has an aircraft carrier?

It's actually not as weird as it sounds, although it doesn't wholly reflect the balance of forces during the cold war: in the aftermath of the collapse of Communism the Kiev-class aircraft carrier/cruisers were decommissioned, and the Varyag was sold to China to be finished and floated as the Liaoning. At peak, the USSR had five aircraft carriers - the Admiral Kuznetzov and the four Kiev-classes; the Varyag and the Ulyanovsk were never finished.

Generally, though, aircraft carriers project force to areas where you have no land holdings, and which have their own air defence capabilities. The USSR's strategic doctrine was set up on the assumption that any major conventional action would take place with mainland Europe as a battleground, so there would always be lines behind which planes could be launched, landed and refuelled. The USSR's aircraft carriers were designed as platforms for relatively short-range strikes and interdiction - the Ulyanovsk would have been the first one designed for the deep ocean.

(The difference in strategic requirement also means the USSR developed helicopter carriers - smaller and cheaper, and designed to hunt nuclear submarines rather than project force.)

Even that map is somewhat misleading, in terms of how many countries are meaningfully able to project force. Like, the Royal Navy looks like it has five aircraft carriers there. But the Invincible and the Ark Royal have been decommissioned, and the Illustrious will be decommissioned in the not too distant future. The Argus isn't meaningfully an aircraft carrier - she's been refitted as a hospital ship, after being briefly pressed into service as a helicopter platform.

The Ocean is an amphibious support carrier, essentially to fill the role the Argus was pressed into - that is, she launches helicopters off the coast of a shore being taken by marines to provide infantry support. Britain is planning to have two next-generation aircraft carriers, and either sell one or use them in rotation (so they can float both if they need to, but will usually have one in active service and one docked) - but in terms of an ocean-going vessel able to launch modern jet aircraft for stand-off strikes, you're looking optimistically at 2020.

So, yeah - in terms of who can actually send an aircraft carrier around the world and be able to deploy strike planes from it, the US actually has more of an advantage than even the numbers suggest.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:08 AM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


(To clarify, in that opening sentence of the second para I meant that the general assumed role of US aircraft carriers is to project force to etc. Many nation's aircraft carriers don't have that role in mind.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:14 AM on August 26, 2013


Yes, a lot of the Soviet weapons systems were designed for defending the USSR and its 'buffer zone' or for deterrence/retaliation, while most US weaponry was designed, in accordance with US doctrine, to project power right up to the edges of the Soviet Union for 'containment' purposes.
posted by knapah at 5:22 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Absolutely. And, of course, a chunk of the next-tier nations' resources may reflect that - one of India's aircraft carriers is a recommissioned Soviet Kiev-class carrier, e.g.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:35 AM on August 26, 2013


Snipers attack U.N. chemical weapons team in Syria
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 6:19 AM on August 26, 2013


I predict a last minute deal on this that avoids an actual attack. Some minor concession by Assad. Let UN inspectors do an inventory of some of their WMD. Make another run at a peace conference.
posted by humanfont at 7:04 AM on August 26, 2013


It's a state of never ending war. We've always been at war with Eurasia. I watched my son start his first day of 5th grade this morning, and as I was listening to the dulcet tones of the war hawks on NPR, I realized that we have been at war since he was born, and at this rate, he may end up dying on the same Persian sands my great grandparents left because of western "intervention".

I cannot believe what we as Americans have allowed ourselves to become. We are the last gasp of the Romans, sending our troops off to come back with their shields, or on them. We have become indifferent to the meat grinder of war. We listen only to the drum beat. We salute our soldiers as they march to war, and try to put the broken bodies and minds of the ones who return out of sight and mind. We stand proudly and salute a flag as it waves over a game or a race or a politician, but turn our heads and refuse to see that same flag as it lies covering the coffin of the people who pay the price of eternal strife.

The mangled bodies and lives of the people in the countries we "save", we do not count. They do not count. The bombs which kill them count. They count for thousands of dollars. They've made millionaires out of the war profiteers who pay the drummers to never stop the beat.

Mark my word, this chemical attack on civilians will later be proven to have been some rogue agent/false flag/military cockup, but by then it will be too late. We will have already intervened. We will have fed the hawks, and unleashed the hounds.
posted by dejah420 at 7:07 AM on August 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


From 2007: "Seven Countries In Five Years," - General Wesley Clark.
- “We’re going to take out seven countries in 5 years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran” —
posted by adamvasco at 7:44 AM on August 26, 2013


2011-12-07 wikileaks - Military intervention in Syria.
posted by adamvasco at 7:57 AM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


We are the last gasp of the Romans, sending our troops off to come back with their shields, or on them.

This country was founded lionizing the trappings of Rome. It will be far from the last to do so.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:04 AM on August 26, 2013


Welp, I learned something from this thread. Thanks, Justinian.

Yep. And keep in mind a lot of those carriers in that image you linked aren't actually full sized carriers or in service. For example it shows India with 4 carriers. But in fact only 1 is actually in service today. One hasn't even had the keel laid down AFAIK, another has almost finished construction but isn't entering service for 4 more years, and the third is an old Russian carrier bought and being refurbished. It may or may not be ready later this year.

And you know how it shows Japan with 6 carriers? Yeah, those aren't actually carriers. They are amphibious landing ships. They can only launch a couple small helicopters.
posted by Justinian at 11:01 AM on August 26, 2013


In terms of actual in service carriers I think this image probably gives a more accurate idea because it is only in-service carriers (as opposed to being built) which can launch fixed wing aircraft.
posted by Justinian at 11:03 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Aaaaand I see running order squabble fest already made these points.

I know so little about so few things that I get happy when I can look smart. Oh well.
posted by Justinian at 11:07 AM on August 26, 2013


Some people on twitter are "reporting" another chemical attack today. I don't follow these people but one of them got retweeted by a buzzfeed reporter I follow.
posted by DynamiteToast at 11:38 AM on August 26, 2013


About 60 percent of Americans surveyed said the United States should not intervene in Syria's civil war, while just 9 percent thought Mr. Obama should act, Reuters reported.
posted by klue at 11:49 AM on August 26, 2013


Well unfortunately a majority of the military industrial complex thinks we should intervene, so sorry about that America.
posted by Big_B at 12:00 PM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


You should probably be apologizing to Syria.

Kerry just issued a statement and from how strongly it was worded it would seem the U.S. definitely believes the chemical attack last week was regime. Can't find transcript/video yet.
posted by DynamiteToast at 12:12 PM on August 26, 2013


I watched. It would seem to me that's definitely what you're meant to believe. You have heard justification ... mull over it. Relax ...

Y o u  a r e  g e t t i n g  s l e e p y ... v e r y  s l e e p y
posted by de at 12:48 PM on August 26, 2013


Transcript of Kerry's remarks
posted by knapah at 1:11 PM on August 26, 2013


So today the 'on-dit' is that Obama wants to force the US into an intervention in Syria so that he can then use it as a springboard to launch a invasion of Iran.....?

Ah metafilter, masters of grand strategy and the operational art.
posted by fingerbang at 1:29 PM on August 26, 2013


Yes, fingerbang, you just summed up the general attitude of 'metafilter'. Impressive work!

The only thing that seems sure at this point is that Obama wants to intervene (directly) in the Syrian civil war against the will of the American population.
posted by klue at 1:38 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Look man, don't scoff, this is a guy who knows that "it's actually kind of hard to fuck up supporting a genuinely popular mass movement" - he's clearly someone with a sagacious grasp of the simple truths involved in using military force to tease out desired geopolitical outcomes. You can hardly blame him for sneering at the rest of us - his keen, rapier-like wit doesn't get encumbered by the irrelevant details that trip up lesser minds.

Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? Morons.
posted by XMLicious at 2:25 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now all I'm saying is that the in last few (dozen) interventions from Chile, to Vietnam, from Iraq to Iran to Nicaragua to Cuba you decided to back the money men instead of the people.

Aren't you curious to find out what that might feel like to be on the other side? Backing a pluralistic movement facing off against another Ceausescu clone with his crime family, his torturers, his mustachioed secret police his informers and his nerve gas?

Like Churchill said "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing—after they’ve tried everything else."

Are we there yet?

(Oh XMLicious, just help out, are you attacking my arguments or me? Hard to tell. And have I heard of Aristotle? Yes, I studied under Richard Sorabji. Big Smile!)
posted by fingerbang at 3:56 PM on August 26, 2013


So today the 'on-dit' is that Obama wants to force the US into an intervention in Syria so that he can then use it as a springboard to launch a invasion of Iran.....?

fingerbang, I guess the "bomb Syria in order to bomb Iran" argument relies on the statements Iran have made about retaliating against US or Israeli targets if Syria is attacked, which would be a delightful little justification for taking out a substantial chunk of the Iranian military with airstrikes. It would also be remarkably stupid, but that's the logical progression to an Iran conflict.
posted by knapah at 4:16 PM on August 26, 2013


Backing a pluralistic movement facing off against another Ceausescu clone with his crime family, his torturers, his mustachioed secret police his informers and his nerve gas?

So that rebel commander who cut out and ate a dead enemy's heart on video... is he really for democracy, or is he just an ally of convenience?
posted by fatbird at 5:19 PM on August 26, 2013


maybe he was just auditioning for bizarre foods
posted by pyramid termite at 5:24 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


The commander who cut out and ate a heart was killed, so his role in forming a new Syrian government will be limited.

It isn't clear what Mr Obama wants to do, and that may be different from what he decides to do. The opinion of the American people is not a fixed thing. This afternoon the Speaker of the House was demanding significant consultations before anything happens. I read this weekend that the advisors tasked with forming policy options for the President have yet to agree on what options to present to him. Consultations with NATO and other possible coalition partners are still ongoing. Once they agree on options and the President makes his decision, convinced allies to go along and has an opportunity to meet with various House and Senate leaders then something might happen. I doubt any of that will happen until after Labor Day.
posted by humanfont at 5:29 PM on August 26, 2013


Despite my mastery of strategy and the operational art, I hadn't picked up that you were actually making arguments, fingerbang - it seemed to me that you were putting on some kind of character launching conceited antagonism in all directions. My last line above alludes to a similar character from this story. Stridently asserting your intellectual credentials is a clever finishing touch.
posted by XMLicious at 5:30 PM on August 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, what exactly is it about this campaign that makes it seem more like scary Iraq, instead of tepid Libya?
posted by Apocryphon at 5:51 PM on August 26, 2013


The "gassed his own people" line, a dog-whistle if I've ever heard one.
posted by lumensimus at 6:44 PM on August 26, 2013


The "gassed his own people" line, a dog-whistle if I've ever heard one.

Ba'athists, amirite?

(Seriously though: Gas, schmas; Assad's done plenty besides to deserve a stern UN finger-wagging.)
posted by Sys Rq at 6:51 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, what exactly is it about this campaign that makes it seem more like scary Iraq, instead of tepid Libya?

Libya had very limited air defense capabilities, the rebels were better organized and held fairly well defined territories. Gaddafi had no significant international allies to provide him with support and materials. Gaddafi lacked the ability to strike Israel or other US allies in the region. Military planners were fairly confident that with limited special operations and air support the rebels would be able to win.

Syria is home to Russia's biggest foreign navy base and Assad is a major ally of Iran and Hezbollah. This gives the regime a set of allies well above Libya. Syria has a sophisticated air defense system. The rebels are a mess, it is unclear if they can win even with air support. If they defeat Assad and the country descends into a stateless mess like Somalia, Lebanon during its civil war, or Afghanistan post Soviet withdraw; then what. Rebels and regime elements are engaged in close urban combat in all the major urban centers. The borders between rebels and regime are unclear making targeting difficult. If Syria is attacked it may respond by firing chemical weapons or conventional missiles at Israel, Jordan, Turkey or other US allies in the region.
posted by humanfont at 7:33 PM on August 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


Libya is actually still a mess. I've been trying to formulate a recipe for successful recovery from an evil regime: I got as far as "set up a government in exile", remembered Pol Pot, then gave up.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:14 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's true that Syria has a more sophisticated air defense network than Lybia and many other nations. I'm not convinced a bunch of SA-2s and 3s or even SA-6 and 8s are a serious threat to a latest generation combat strike though.

Yeah, they have some Strelas but even those...

Not to say that we should go Rambo on these guys but I'm pretty sure we could waste their air defense network pretty handily if we set our minds to it.
posted by Justinian at 9:19 PM on August 26, 2013


Meant to post this a few days ago, but it got lost in the shuffle.

What International Community?, Richard Hass, Project Syndicate, 24 July 2013
But many governments are concerned that “Responsibility to Protect,” raises expectations that they will act, which could prove costly in terms of lives, military expenditure, and commercial priorities. Some governments are also worried that “Responsibility to Protect,” could be turned on them. Russian and Chinese reticence about pressuring governments that deserve censure and sanction stems partly from such concerns; the absence of consensus on Syria is just one result.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:05 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I do not mean to suggest the US can't destroy Syrian air defenses. The operation will just be more costly and carry a higher risk of losing American pilots and soldiers than Libya. The US commitment to the Libyan operation was a couple of billion iirc. We had no soldiers deployed, mostly provided refueling tankers and some cruise missiles. Already the US is said to have prepositioned over a thousand soldiers in Jordan, moved several dozen aircraft to Turkey, Cyprus and Jordan, and deployed 5 destoryers with lots of missiles into range off the coast. It seems to he at least 10x the size of the Libyan commitment and we havn't even started bombing.
posted by humanfont at 10:24 PM on August 26, 2013


I thought I remembered something like this, but couldn't find a reference. Then when I was looking up a TO&E for the Syrian Air Defense Force, lo and behold…

Assad regrets downing of Turkish jet, says won’t allow open combat with Ankara, Alarabiya.net English, 03 July 2012

A little more poking around lead me to this, which should complicate the calculus.
Syria’s Civil War Comes to the Kurds, Zachary Fillingham, Geopolitical Monitor, 19 August 2013
… [A] comprehensive terror campaign by Islamists in the Kurdish-majority areas of northeastern Syria, one where targeted rapes, kidnappings, and murders are becoming commonplace. The article provides an individual’s account of an attack on a Kurdish town by brigades from the Free Syria Army, the al-Nusra Front, and perhaps most interestingly – the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.


Anyway, my back of the envelope calculation is that the U.S. could probably flatten the Syrian Presidential Palace and Ministry of Defense, even if Syria actually got the SA-20 shipment Putin claims hasn't happened. Of course, we'd use up a bunch of AGM-88s to do it. Not to mention, I'm not sure it'd even be worth it.

In my mind the right play is back off, try to patch things up with Russia instead of antagonizing them, and actually have those peace talks that got scrubbed because of deteriorating U.S. relations with Russia.

P.S. That's the biggest thing I'll never forgive Bush the Elder and his cabal from the Ford Administation for. If we had teamed up with the Russians 20 years ago none of this shit would be happening. Even if we would have had to spend the entirety of the "peace dividend" on it, a Russia not run by the Kremlin would have been worth it. Although I guess that presupposes a United States that isn't run by the Pentagon, but still. Instead Bush the Elder, Cheney, et al. decided they had ball in hand and chose to mount an expedition to Iraq. Which in the course of events leads us to the situation in Syria today. It's almost like they want World War III to happen.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:59 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nobody will ever compare him to Jimmy Carter again:
US will make legal case for striking Syria without UN approval
WASHINGTON -- The United States is preparing legal justification for the use of force against Syria with allies Britain and France that would circumvent the United Nations Security Council, where Russia and China have vowed to block any resolution authorizing military intervention in the conflict.

The US will detail its case soon, with military action possible in the coming days, sources told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:15 AM on August 27, 2013


America approved of the use of Chemical weapons by Saddam against Iran.
Air Force Col. Rick Francona was a military attaché in Baghdad during the 1988 strikes.
"The Iraqis never told us that they intended to use nerve gas. They didn't have to. We already knew''.
So no this is not about the use of chemical weapons at all.
posted by adamvasco at 1:52 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well that settles it. Let's get our war on. It's been like a year since we killed some non-white people and I'm starting to get the shakes. Put Slim Pickens on a cruise missile and get this party started.
posted by Justinian at 2:05 AM on August 27, 2013


Prince Bandar, head of Saudi intelligence, allegedly confronted the Kremlin with a mix of inducements and threats in a bid to break the deadlock over Syria. “Let us examine how to put together a unified Russian-Saudi strategy on the subject of oil. The aim is to agree on the price of oil and production quantities that keep the price stable in global oil markets,” he said at the four-hour meeting with Mr Putin. They met at Mr Putin’s dacha outside Moscow three weeks ago.
“We understand Russia’s great interest in the oil and gas in the Mediterranean from Israel to Cyprus. And we understand the importance of the Russian gas pipeline to Europe. We are not interested in competing with that. We can cooperate in this area,” he said, purporting to speak with the full backing of the US. (hat tip)
posted by adamvasco at 2:08 AM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


America approved of the use of Chemical weapons by Saddam against Iran.

Knowing is not approving. We later spent over a trillion dollars to make sure that Saddam would never be able to use chemical weapons again and helped the Kurds setup a semi-autonomous state in Northern Iraq.
posted by humanfont at 4:47 AM on August 27, 2013


Saw this on twitter: Required Sorties and Weapons to Degrade Syrian Air Force from @TheStudyofWar.
posted by DynamiteToast at 7:02 AM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


"...100 million in gold, 9 new AA guns, 1 issue of anti-ship missles, 3 pepsis', 3 pair sets of improvised chemical weapons. Shoot, a feller could have a pretty good time in Damascus with all that stuff!
posted by clavdivs at 7:19 AM on August 27, 2013


So, like... were the Ainu treated the same as everyone else before Western influence appeared in Japan? I had thought that Japanese culture was always quite stratified and even internally was broken down into groups like the eta / burakumin...

So the Meiji restortation was a western plot or idea to help re-define the Ainu people?

"On June 6, 2008, a bipartisan, non-binding resolution was approved by the Japanese Diet calling upon the government to recognize the Ainu people as indigenous to Japan, and urging an end to discrimination against the group. The resolution recognised the Ainu people as "an indigenous people with a distinct language, religion and culture", and rescinded the 1899 law..." -from the wiki on Ainu people...it's Ainu people not Ainu and what kind of comparison is that even for an anaolgy.
posted by clavdivs at 7:32 AM on August 27, 2013


If the assessment in Dynamite Toast's link is correct:
$50 million to disable Syrian Airforce bases (crater runways, severely damage control towers, etc.
$75 million to destroy all fighters/bombers (does not include helicopters)

and $25 million for maintenance strikes every ten days you want to keep the bases crippled.

That's... astoundingly cheap.
posted by Ryvar at 8:30 AM on August 27, 2013


The United States could hit Syria with three days of missile strikes, perhaps beginning Thursday, in an attack meant more to send a message to the Syrian regime than to cripple its military, senior U.S. officials told NBC News.
posted by DynamiteToast at 8:43 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm skeptical of those cost estimates. The joint chiefs can't drop a load in a toilet for less than a billion dollars.
posted by humanfont at 8:55 AM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


US will make legal case for striking Syria without UN approval

Truly, when America elects a constitutionalist scholar to its highest office, we get a legalist who follows the letter of the law, and not the spirit.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:26 AM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


humanfront: that's just the ordnance cost. Non-extended-range Tomahawks are down to $700K a pop, apparently. Doesn't count operator costs, ship movement, etc., but we were going to be paying for those operators and ship fuel regardless.
posted by Ryvar at 11:05 AM on August 27, 2013


And what do we do if Assad retaliates against Israel or Turkey? Or if he uses nerve gas somewhere else?

We hit him again.

And it escalates.

Not if we restrict it to cruise missiles and air strikes.

Now you’re scaring me. Have you forgotten Iraq?

Not for a single minute.

My point is that you can’t restrict it. You can’t use force for limited goals. You need to know what you’ll do after his next move, and the move after that.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:09 AM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


DynamiteToast: “Saw this on twitter: Required Sorties and Weapons to Degrade Syrian Air Force from @TheStudyofWar.”
Jesus Christ. We've privatized completed staff work now? Full marks for quality though. Since they don't think that they'd need to take out the Syrian Air Defense Force, I guess that means they don't think Syria actually got those SA-20s?

Ryvar: “That's... astoundingly cheap.”
That's of course just he munitions, and I think is a bit low for that. I figure it at more like 100+ million for the "Initial Strike" and another 100+ million to take out all SAF aircraft. Again, just in munitions.

Either way, I really don't think this is a good idea. I'm very surprised anyone does.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:34 AM on August 27, 2013


Ryvar: “That's... astoundingly cheap.”

I read that as "Ryanair will be providing low-cost logistical support for bombing sorties."
posted by KokuRyu at 11:42 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


And what do we do if Assad retaliates against Israel or Turkey? Or if he uses nerve gas somewhere else?

We hit him again.

And it escalates.


This is what I don't understand - much like Gaddafi, once you take away their toys they're essentially sitting ducks - it becomes a war of attrition between loyal commanders vs. defectors and an angry mob, which they will probably lose. How can they "escalate" things without air power? Or, for a couple hundred million dollars more ordnance, any significant armor whatsoever?

We can take away those toys almost bloodlessly from a civilian casualties perspective, and completely bloodlessly from an American lives perspective - for the cost of a day or two spent in Iraq.

When the upside is thousands civilians not being wholesale slaughtered by said "toys" - isn't that worth doing?
posted by Ryvar at 12:18 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mapped: 35 Places In Syria Likely to Get Hit With a U.S. Cruise Missile
posted by homunculus at 12:25 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is what I don't understand - much like Gaddafi, once you take away their toys they're essentially sitting ducks - it becomes a war of attrition between loyal commanders vs. defectors and an angry mob, which they will probably lose. How can they "escalate" things without air power? Or, for a couple hundred million dollars more ordnance, any significant armor whatsoever?

If you read the article by George Packer I linked to in the quote above, according to his assessment,

1) the "strategic" challenge for you Americans is that Russia and Iran are not particularly interested in seeing the Syrian regime collapse, especially since the alternative are militias. So there is the real possibility of escalation, or even drawing Russia into the conflict (they man the SAM sites).

2) Despite all of the propaganda since Gulf War I, cruise missiles are not particularly surgical, and are going to kill a lot of civilians. Can you live with that?

3) And there is the main point (in my mind) that I copy-and-pasted above... Airstrikes are not the end game. They are only the beginning.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:27 PM on August 27, 2013


All of this talk about decapitating the Ba'athist leadership with one strike makes my eyes wander south of Syria's border, and think about all the good that did there.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:15 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Which is why it's gonna be nobody.

I am quite depressed that when I made this comment I had for one day actually believed we might not get into yet another armed conflict with a nebulous and ill-defined end game. Fool me once...
posted by Justinian at 1:17 PM on August 27, 2013


Your credibility is at stake!
posted by KokuRyu at 1:31 PM on August 27, 2013


MetaFilter: I'm with fingerbang.
posted by Eideteker at 1:44 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm with this kid.
posted by de at 1:47 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Russia mans Syrian SAM sites? That sounds very very odd for an army to have a foreign force manning their weapons for them. Very very unusual. Now I'm sure this happened once during handover but I'll bet there are very few Russian nationals standing next to Syrian SAM sites right now.

Can I live with casualties KoyuRyu? Yes I can. If we couldn't them no action of any kind could ever take place. What do the FSA think? Well, they get up in the morning and go out and fight so if they can physically live with the casualties (no crap jokes) then I suppose I (emotionally) can. Again, are we suggesting no human action can take place if someone might die? Isn't this supposed to be one of the few things worth making the ultimate sacrifice for?

"Airstrikes are not the end game. They're just the beginning" Who is going around saying the opposite? Me? Who?

Look you can get cafe press to make a nice tile out that with a cute font and grout it in above your shitter but it doesn't make it an argument or even very meaningful. It's just a phrase you came across, a truism, slogan, it doesn't lend weight to an argument....its just a thing someone said. Probably in the 'twitterverse'.

Fuck I just had another look at the wiki entry for Syrian Air Defence Command. That gear is flintstones stuff, utter crap, cold war leftovers sold for cheap. No one ever intended for this to be used against a first world army. (And really, who are the people who think the SADC can hold off America. Just think about how vanishingly unlikely it is that you can 'Freedom Proof' yourself against the USAF with the cheap purchase of a few Russian missiles).

As for the scary SA20 That is a Patriotski, designed to shoot down incoming ballistics. An air defense system is just that, an entire integrated system and is only as strong as its cheapest crap. And lord the Syrian system is so so creaky.

After they clear the skies then any and every unauthorized vehicle that moves has a life measured in minutes. The Syrians know this, the Israeli's have dominated them several times and they know how had it is. And this isn't even America.

Then it becomes exactly as Ryvar says: "..it becomes a war of attrition between loyal commanders vs. defectors and an angry mob, which they will probably lose.

Exactly, you wreck the other guys negotiating position. Now you have people from the regime who see what's going on and have nothing to fight with, so they suddenly start talking.

I can't believe this. You invaded Iraq based on fucking bullshit about WMD and now you have a guy who does this and you're all moral on me all of a sudden. Fuck. Wow. What does a man have to do to get an airstrike these days?
posted by fingerbang at 2:26 PM on August 27, 2013


Keep in mind that Kosovo was fought on the same terms proposed here and NATO was able to acheive its objectives.
posted by humanfont at 3:28 PM on August 27, 2013


Wasn't it Kosovo where the only thing stopping Wesley Clarke from starting a war with Russian troops was a British general unwilling to pass the orders on to his soldiers?
posted by fatbird at 3:30 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Saw this on twitter: Required Sorties and Weapons to Degrade Syrian Air Force from @TheStudyofWar.

That analysis, if correct, suggests that we could significantly degrade the capabilities of the Syrian air force with minimal risk of U.S. casualties, as long as we are willing to re-attack approximately once a week. But, even if we are willing to do so, what would it really buy us?

I haven't heard any claims that the chemical weapons already used were launched by air; the reports I've read say they were launched from ground-based rockets...
posted by Juffo-Wup at 3:31 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's fascinating to me is how much support attacking Syria has on Metafilter, when only 9% of Americans think Pres. Obama should act to intervene.

Reuters did the poll, along with a non profit polling org, and here's more on that
The Reuters/Ipsos poll, taken August 19-23, found that 25 percent of Americans would support U.S. intervention if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces used chemicals to attack civilians, while 46 percent would oppose it. That represented a decline in backing for U.S. action since August 13, when Reuters/Ipsos tracking polls found that 30.2 percent of Americans supported intervention in Syria if chemicals had been used, while 41.6 percent did not.
Link
Where's the disparity coming from?
posted by wuwei at 3:45 PM on August 27, 2013


Two things, I think.

First, there has always been a fairly large contingent of liberal interventionists on Metafilter. Kind of a mirror image of the neocons. Maybe we need to coin a pithy term? Neolib?

Second, selection bias. Interventionists are probably much more likely to comment about it than the mass of wishy washy non-interventionists. The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity and all that.
posted by Justinian at 3:50 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think public opinion on the issue is pretty "soft." It has sort of become like going to the gym. The country is tired, sick of ME wars, and just wants to watch TV on the couch. But everyone knows that chemical attacks are hideous and that if we can intervene on a limited scale we should, and then afterwards everyone will feel better.
posted by rosswald at 3:54 PM on August 27, 2013


But everyone knows that chemical attacks are hideous and that if we can intervene on a limited scale we should

What? How the heck does "every know" we should intervene if we can square with the poll data showing exactly the opposite. Is this mirror universe day?
posted by Justinian at 4:05 PM on August 27, 2013


Wasn't it Kosovo where the only thing stopping Wesley Clarke from starting a war with Russian troops was a British general unwilling to pass the orders on to his soldiers?

Yeah. So in one universe WWIII happened because of Balkans tomfoolery, and in ours, Cpt. James Blunt went on to make "You're Beautiful."

Determining which is the darkest timeline is an exercise left up to the reader.
posted by Apocryphon at 4:19 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


But everyone knows that chemical attacks are hideous and that if we can intervene on a limited scale we should

If only Assad would massacre his people with conventional weapons, he wouldn't be causing us USian's so much consternation. Firebomb them, torture them, whatever, but for God's sake just don't use chemical weapons.
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:20 PM on August 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


I can't believe this. You invaded Iraq based on fucking bullshit about WMD and now you have a guy who does this and you're all moral on me all of a sudden. Fuck. Wow. What does a man have to do to get an airstrike these days?

For someone who is playing an armchair general you sure don't seem to know very much about the U.S. military's current endeavors. You are apparently unaware of the 10 or so proxy wars that we are currently prosecuting. You are also apparently unaware that the U.S. has never really stopped bombing since 911.

The fact of the matter is that without the backing of the U.S. and the gulf states the rebellion in Syria would have been put down a long time ago. The reason it has reached this point is directly the result American meddling. So for us to claim some type of moral high ground is ludicrous on its face.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:51 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Can I live with casualties KoyuRyu? Yes I can.

Well, I can't, probably because I have children of my own (parenthood will do it to you). Which is why I will be writing to my MP, the Minister of Defense, and the Prime Minister to avoid getting sucked into this useless initiative.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:11 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


AElfwine, could you expand on that last point some more? My understanding was that the US had not delivered any significant military aid. Not contradicting you, just genuinely curious.
posted by Balna Watya at 5:12 PM on August 27, 2013


I'm not really in favor of intervention. I think we should focus on helping people at home and focusing our international humanitarian efforts on problems that can be solved with funding and expertise rather than bombs.

That said, the use of nerve gas is utterly and completely frightening. I can't remember if it was someone here on MeFi or on Something Awful that described it as something like deploying "Raid® Brand Human Insecticide." Creating any kind of precedent where this is allowed to occur any more is a danger to the population of the world. Yes, people have been killed by guns and bombs and slaughtered by the thousands even with more primitive weapons in relatively modern times, but chemical weapons are just a different sort of thing.

I don't support intervention because as a practical matter I don't know if we can do it right in this situation, but this isn't a time where I'm likely to protest that strongly because I sure as hell can't come up with a better answer that takes all facets of what is happening right now into account. I'm just relying on the idea there must be one.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:30 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


From DynamiteToast's "three days" link, here's the White House:

"The options that we are considering are not about regime change"

So, let me get this straight. We're about to start bombing a country without declaring war, while simultaneously declaring that we are not interested in changing that country's vicious authoritarian regime, and civilians will certainly die in the process.

Fuck that noise. It's a cliche that there are only terrible choices in Syria for US policymakers, but this set is among the worst. Working with and through the United Nations, strengthening it for the long term while trying to stop the Syrians, is so obviously a better choice than a unilateral US announcement that the bombing will soon commence. We have no right to start bombing Syria on Thursday. None.

Can I live with casualties KoyuRyu? Yes I can.

Can you live with civilian casualties from *your own* family? Let's try that framing.
posted by mediareport at 5:42 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you define the victory condition as punishing Assad instead of regime change you can stop anytime you want to and declare victory.
posted by humanfont at 5:54 PM on August 27, 2013


I agree. So let's stop now and declare victory!
posted by Justinian at 6:02 PM on August 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


It seems that when a 'dictator for life' launches nerve gas attacks on civilians all the American "Ffffrreedom and Brraaavery" stuff turns out to be just bluster.... All those speeches, all that posturing, all that money spent and all those American flag wraps on your SUV's.

But when it comes down to a little bit of fucking you're afraid to stick it in.


God, what an atrocious bit of illogic this guy's spewing. Many of us were in the streets to oppose the bombing and invasion of Iraq when it was ramping up. I opposed the bombing of Afghanistan as it was happening on grounds that it was stupid strategy. Both scenarios have resulted in massive civilian casualties and an enormous waste of money. And yet here's the same warmongering prideful garbage again, setting up the USA as the sole avenger - with bombs from afar, of course - of international political injustice.

Here's a better idea, fingerbang. Instead of floating a unilateral US bombing attack on yet another Middle East/African/Central Asian country, Mr. Nobel Peace Prize should be talking solely about the United Nations. He should be encouraging all of our allies to authorize a force solely to protect the UN inspectors who are there to investigate the chemical weapons claims. The Saudi oil bribery of Putin can work hand in hand. But a bombing run by US planes is so obviously idiotic and counterproductive - a force for violence and chaos disguised as "surgical" explosive diplomacy, just like all those other bombing runs and invasions you're waving around to exhort us to kill more civilians (which you've announced you're quite comfortable with, thanks for clarifying) - that it's unbelievable Joe Biden, John Kerry and Barack Obama are seriously considering it for this week.

Please folks, call the White House immediately so you can at least remind yourself and your loved ones as Syrian civilians get blown to bits, this time by US bombs, that you at least bothered to make a phone call to register your discontent: 202-456-1111.
posted by mediareport at 6:13 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Something I haven't seen enough discussion of: How is it not illegal under US law for Obama to launch attacks here? Congress has passed no authorization for the use of force against Syria. There is no threat to America's safety and none has been alleged even by those who advocate the use of force. This is not an emergent situation. If the goal is to punish the Syrian regime rather than some sort of regime change then it hardly matters whether we start dropping the 2000lb bombs of liberty tomorrow or two weeks from now.

So, Bush = war criminal. Obama = an hero. Despite both breaking essentially the same law if this happens?
posted by Justinian at 6:17 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, is anyone else getting the feeling that the Nobel Peace Prize was actually awarded to Obama ironically? It was totally a hipster move.
posted by Justinian at 6:18 PM on August 27, 2013


I remember when The Onion used to be satirical: Obama Weighing His Syria Option
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:41 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Obama was both a slap in the face to Dubya, by lauding the guy who said he'd pull back from Bush's wars before he even did anything about them, and an attempt to constrain Obama publicly by putting him in the position of either rejecting the Prize or accepting it and forever being tarred as "the peace prize winner". I think Obama rightly ignores it for the bit of theatre it was.

As for being a hero by breaking the same laws for which Dubya is pilloried, that's Congress's fault for demonstrating that the president can do whatever he wants with no legal repercussions. I've never wanted to slap a Democrat so hard as when I listened to various Ds in Congress sputter that they gave Bush the authorization to use force so he'd have it, not so he could use it.
posted by fatbird at 6:44 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


In response to Justinian's question above, I would have thought NATO treaty obligations would somehow justify the use of force.

What I don't understand is why. It doesnt seem as though government forces are really responsible for the gas attacks. Bombing Syria doesn't really accomplish anything.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:53 PM on August 27, 2013


Justinian asked: How is it not illegal under US law for Obama to launch attacks here?

He has authority to attack rebels associated with Al-Qaeda under Public Law 107-40.

Um, wait a moment. OK, he apparently has the power to support rebels associated with Al-Qaeda, as long as he doesn't claim that he's declaring war.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:54 PM on August 27, 2013


Ooh, zing: Syria Intervention Would Reaffirm Obama’s Biggest Flip-Flop
“The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat,” Obama told the Boston Globe.

Back then, the target in question was Iran, and Obama was a first-term senator running for president [...]
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:09 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Bombers get up
Missiles get up
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey

[Verse 1: Robin Thicke]
If you can't hear what I'm trying to say
If you can't read from the same page
Maybe I'm going deaf,
Maybe I'm going blind
Assad just crossed the red line
[Pharell:] Bombers get up

[Pre-chorus: Robin Thicke]
OK now chemical weapons, tried to VX gas you
Assad's an animal, baby it's in his nature
Just let me liberate Syria
Hey, hey, hey
You don't need no United Nations
Hey, hey, hey
The Congress can just act later
Hey, hey, hey

[Chorus: Robin Thicke]
And that's why I'm gon' bomb Asssad
I know you want it
I know you want it
I know you want it
He's been a bad boy
Can't let it get past me
They were breathing gasses
Talk about VX nerve gas
I have these red lines
I know you want it
I know you want it
I know you want it
He's been a bad boy
The way he crossed me
Things gonna get nasty
Go ahead, get at he
[Pharell:] Bombers get up

[Verse 2: Robin Thicke]
What do they make air force
When you got them war on
What do we need to bomb more
You the hottest bitch in this place
I feel so lucky
Hey, hey, hey
You wanna hug me
Hey, hey, hey
What rhymes with regime change?
Hey, hey, hey

...The rest is left as an exercise for the reader.
posted by humanfont at 7:22 PM on August 27, 2013


Uh, yeah. He got the job for a number of reasons, but the number one reason is that he hadn't cynically voted for the Iraq AUMF like Senator Clinton had (and said he wouldn't have, give the opportunity), and that energized the Deaniacs and those who were pissed off about the war to support him rather than her.

Feh.

US Presidents have long claimed the right to send US forces into a fight under the C-in-C language of the Constitution, irrespective of what Congress has said or rights it claims (War Powers Act). Congress hasn't been willing or had the right opportunity to challenge a President on it so far.
posted by notyou at 7:28 PM on August 27, 2013


Um, wait a moment. OK, he apparently has the power to support rebels associated with Al-Qaeda, as long as he doesn't claim that he's declaring war.

The dancing over what to call what happened in Egypt because of the legal impact on aid is illustrative of our current legal situation when it comes to international politics. It doesn't matter what we actually do, as long as we describe it using the right magic lawyermancy words and then don't make an effort to "determine" otherwise.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:30 PM on August 27, 2013


As I nose around for thoughtful writing to help me understand Syria, a February 2012 article from the Middle East Research and Information Project, "Beyond the Fall of the Syrian Regime," still seems to my uneducated eyes to be a good backgrounder; many of its points (particularly the one about conflicting agendas of the international players looking to intervene) are supported by that fantastic June 2013 Patrick Cockburn LRB link in the original post. Here are some excerpts from the MERIP piece (but I'd welcome corrections, other analysis from people familiar with the region or actually living there, etc):

For its part, the Syrian National Council (SNC), the main opposition group that is composed mostly of exiles, has failed to offer an inspiring alternative since it was formed in September 2011. Its mainly unknown and inexperienced members have done little to counteract the regime’s propaganda. Unable to agree on any positive political platform, the SNC has refused any negotiation with the regime and called for “international intervention” that is conveniently left undefined, leaving to their anxieties the many Syrians who simultaneously loathe the regime, dread foreign interference and panic at the idea of a high-risk transition...

Finally, as increasingly desperate protesters call for help, there is a danger that the outside world will make matters worse as it plays at being savior. Calls for aid are somewhat worse than a pact with the devil: They entail pacts with many devils that do not agree on much. The Gulf monarchies, Iraq, Turkey, Russia, the US, Iran and others all see geostrategic stakes in the fate of the Asad regime. The greater their involvement, the less Syrians will remain in control of their destiny. Crying out for foreign intervention of any kind, to bring this emergency to an end at any cost, is more than understandable coming from ordinary citizens subjected to extreme forms of regime violence. Exiled opposition figures who pose as national leaders have no excuse for behaving likewise, when what is needed is a cool-headed, careful calibration of what type of outside “help” would do the minimum of harm.

posted by mediareport at 7:44 PM on August 27, 2013


I would have thought NATO treaty obligations would somehow justify the use of force

Which NATO member was attacked by Syria?
posted by Justinian at 7:57 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, Bush = war criminal. Obama = an hero. Despite both breaking essentially the same law if this happens?

I doubt that's any reasoning.
Bush = white. Obama = prudent.

Obama needs legal justification to save his own skin should when things go belly up.
posted by de at 8:13 PM on August 27, 2013


I think any American who is suggesting the US take unilateral action outside of a UN or NATO framework is really out of touch.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:16 PM on August 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


Meanwhile, UN inspectors on Tuesday cancelled a visit to areas affected by the attack over security fears. The team had come under sniper fire as they travelled to one of the sites a day earlier. White House spokesman Carney said the team's work was "redundant" and that use of chemical weapons had already been established.

And:

The United States postponed a meeting with Russia on Syria as U.S. officials mulled the response. A source at the State Department told CBS News the meeting was scheduled for Wednesday at The Hague, Netherlands, between Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, and a delegation of their Russian counterparts.

The agenda was to have included consideration of an international peace conference aimed at ending Syria's civil war, which started in March 2011 when protesters began demonstrating peacefully against Assad's rule.


Is this sounding familiar to anyone else? The rush to unilateral US bombing, with no UN vote, the closing off of talks with opponents (or the blatant bribing of those opponents), and no clear plan for aiding the bombed country in the future? This is bullshit, and no amount of macho posturing can mask the smell.

[edited to correct: "and no clear plan for aiding the bombed country..."]
posted by mediareport at 8:20 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, Bush = war criminal. Obama = an hero. Despite both breaking essentially the same law if this happens?

To vastly different degrees, sure.

There was no reason whatsoever for intervention in Iraq in 2003. None. And then it just trudged on and on and just got worse and worse. For no damn reason.

There's a war on in Syria. Intervention could stop it. (Or it could add fuel to the fire; point is, there's actually a fire this time. Not that it's any of America's business, but... Hey, it's something.)
posted by Sys Rq at 8:22 PM on August 27, 2013


No, this is not familiar to Iraq, and I say that as someone who is not a supporter of either intervention. Human pesticide is being used to slaughter people in an ongoing conflict in Syria and if there is an intervention it has not been rushed, this isn't even the first incident.

Bush had a boner for Saddam. Obama wishes like hell this whole thing could just go away.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:24 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


The issue for me is the same problems we saw with the Iraq intervention apply in Syria, even if we feel there's more justification. Military bombing is the wrong step here. We've seen that over and over again; it's a failure of imagination, a kneejerk aggressive response, and a short-term strategy that - over and over again - we've seen make situations worse and worse.

It's crazy. Flat out crazy.
posted by mediareport at 8:25 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


And the USA has no right to do it, but I understand for some that's a minor issue.
posted by mediareport at 8:26 PM on August 27, 2013


Which NATO member was attacked by Syria?

You could probably make a case that Turkey was if you were cynical enough.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 8:29 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Turkey will likely participate (also, like the States and Canada, but not Britain... not sure about France) without parliamentary approval.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:34 PM on August 27, 2013


the duck by the oboe: “Which NATO member was attacked by Syria?

You could probably make a case that Turkey was if you were cynical enough.”
Well, as I pointed out, Syria did shoot down a Turkish jet. They also killed five Turkish civilians in a mortar attack. I know Turkey invoked Article IV of the Washington Treaty over these incidents [Google Cache], but I don't think they have invoked Article V yet.

P.S. Google cache because the NATO site is up and down right now. Totally a coincidence I'm sure.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:55 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


The attacks happened last December. Using them as pretext for action now would be pretty brazen.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 9:03 PM on August 27, 2013


"It's horrible, it's stupid," the [US] intelligence official said about the East Ghouta attack by the Syrian military. "Whatever happens in the next few days -- they get what they deserve."

Apparently that includes civilian casualties. At least there's also this:

But within the intelligence community, at least, "there's an interest in letting the U.N. piece run its course," the official said. "It puts the period on the end of the sentence."

So the question, I guess, with the limited information us lowly citizens can possibly get access to, is whether the president will listen to his own intelligence community or override it in a rush to start bombing another country.

Don't tell me this doesn't sound familiar.
posted by mediareport at 9:35 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think if Saddam was doing what Assad is doing right now, Obama's opposition to intervention would not have been a centerpiece of his political ascension.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:06 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Via Popehat: My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Syria forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.

It points to yesterday's White House press briefing, which is worth reading in full:

Q: Would the President act without congressional or U.N. authorization? …

MR. CARNEY: ...When it comes to Congress, we’re consulting with Congress and will continue to do that...

Q: What would the legal basis be for a military strike?

MR. CARNEY: I'm not going to speculate about a decision that hasn’t been made.

Q: Can you detail the consultations with Congress that have gone on so far? Because there are many members of Congress who believe they have not been consulted.

MR. CARNEY: Well, members of Congress have been consulted, and those consultations will continue. We don't tend to read out every individual phone call, but the White House and obviously the State Department and others have been consulting with members --

Q: Can you give us some examples? Some leaders?

MR. CARNEY: Again, I don't want to read out a specific member, but I can tell you that members of Congress have been consulted and will be consulted as we continue to make these evaluations.

Q: Specific people in different committees that have been consulted? Can you give us at least some --

MR. CARNEY: I think members of Congress with a particular interest in this matter have been consulted and will continue to be consulted, and that process is underway and will continue in coming days.

Q: Do you need Congress to act on anything? Or is that determination --

MR. CARNEY: Again, I don't want to speculate about what Congress might do when we haven’t even reached a decision.

Q: Consult with Congress -- does not mean having Congress authorize something? Is that a fair --

MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that's a statement objectively of fact that you’ve made...


That's Carney weasily agreeing that "consult with Congress" does not mean "having Congress authorize something" while not quite admitting that the White House clearly feels it doesn't need Congressional approval to bomb Syria this week.
posted by mediareport at 10:13 PM on August 27, 2013


Saddam did do what Assad is allegedly doing right now, in fact on a much larger scale. He was finally punished. Was it worth it?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:41 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


As I recall, Iraq used poison gas against Iran.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:46 PM on August 27, 2013


As I recall, Iraq used poison gas against Iran.

Also, Halabja: The incident, which has been officially defined as an act of genocide against the Kurdish people in Iraq, was and still remains the largest chemical weapons attack directed against a civilian-populated area in history.
posted by BungaDunga at 10:57 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Presidents do not believe they need Congressional approval to launch cruise missiles. They don't believe they need imminent threat fig leaves. They don't believe they need NATO mutual defense assurances. They don't believe they need Geneva conventions to defend. Did Clinton get permission before he ordered the attack on the Somali (Sudanese?) pharm/WMD factory? The strike on OBL's camp in Afghanistan (pre-911 Al Qaeda authorizations)? Nope.

Presidents do not need Congressional approval for the kind of limited effort proposed here (or undertaken in Libya) unless/until Congress insists they do. And that's not likely.

This is an opportunity to change the shape of the end game negotiations by taking away Assad's key chip (air power and armor), flatten the battlefield to irregulars on both sides, and be in position to influence the outcome (toward whatever goals). It doesn't have much to do with the slaughter of Syrian civilians by one side in the civil war or the other.

The distinction between chem weapons killing civilians and jets and artillery killing civilians seems arbitrary. At best it represents a higher barrier to entry to civilian killing --- only those powers rich enough to support jet planes and armor get to do it.
posted by notyou at 10:58 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was no reason whatsoever for intervention in Iraq in 2003.

The no-fly-zone over Iraq was costing about $1B a year, couldn't go on forever, and I'm not sure if there was really any other exit plan besides "regime change" or just stopping it and letting the Kurds get slaughtered. Plus oil, and probably other reasons. Not that any of it is enough to justify invading Iraq, leaving hundreds of thousands of dead and most of the country in utter chaos. We don't have any such attachments to Syria. Maybe as technology advances we could do a no-fly-zone entirely with drones. But in the case of Syria that probably would just provide cover to Al Qaeda while they take over the country.

I think the idea that Obama needs to teach Assad a lesson and then can just go away is a bit silly.

Maybe our money would be much better spent in helping to take care of the refugees, now including one million children I saw the other day! How much would it cost to give each one of them a decent education so they don't grow up to be terrorists, and could hopefully help rebuild their country some day?

With all of our spy satellites and everything can't we track what Assad is doing? I don't think Obama and Biden should be selling a war like this without a better reason than this. Obama shouldn't do anything until some of the major players in the region, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, etc, can come to some agreement about what should be done and are committed to take a large part in whatever is done. And sadly things probably need to get worse before that would happen.

A Short Guide to the Middle East

posted by Golden Eternity at 10:59 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


This does remind me of Iraq. Saddam had been dicking the UN weapons inspectors around, but he relented just before the US invasion. Sorry, the US said, it's too late, we have an invasion planned and you can't distract us. It turned out that the nuclear and biological weapons programs really had been shut down, but chaos, misunderstandings, and cultural issues confused the issue and the inspectors thought the programs were still going on.

A similar thing might be going on here: we still don't know. We might be wrong about the WMDs; we might be wrong about who used them; we might be wrong about it being an official act rather than a cockup. We just don't know. Our earlier errors should give us pause: surely the cost of being cautious isn't so very great compared to the cost of being wrong? It's not as if an attack will be over in a matter of days; it's not as if a working society can be rebuilt in weeks or months. How much harm would be done if we wait for the inspectors to confirm the reports? And once we have attacked we lose any levers over the process: it's either occupy Syria or abandon it to armed gangs. This is our last opportunity to actually think about what's going to happen.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:09 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Exclusive: CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran, Shane Harris and Matthew M. Aid, Foreign Policy, 26 August 2013
posted by ob1quixote at 11:14 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the idea that Bashar al-Assad is some sort of uniquely terrible guy which requires our military intervention is baseless. He's a bush leaguer compared to Saddam Hussein. Saddam killed hundreds of thousands of his own people and committed acts of genocide against the Kurds. He used chemical weapons against both his own people and against another sovereign nation during the Iran-Iraq war. He invaded without justification other sovereign nations.

The solitary argument to be made is that most of those actions were in Hussein's past while al-Assad's activities are ongoing. But given both our history of complicity in Iraq's actions and the administration's own statements that attacks on Syria would be to punish Syria's actions rather than to push for regime change that is a very weak argument.

It staggers me that people can condemn Bush's invasion of Iraq as evil or criminal (as opposed to incompetent which doesn't require either of those things) while supporting attacks on Syria without UN or at least NATO approval. How can one be justified and the other condemned? Hussein was worse than al-Assad on virtually every metric you could come up with.

If the US and the UK (and apparently France) want to claim they had a road to Damascus moment in the last 15 years and suddenly realized that using chemical weapons requires military intervention (as opposed to tacit support as long as the right people are being gassed), hey, ok let's pretend we buy that bullshit. But to do it without international support? Have people learned absolutely nothing from the last 15 years?
posted by Justinian at 11:20 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


That said, Obama committed a total own-goal when he made his statement about use of chemical weapons being a red line. I don't know whether it was simply an error or whether they didn't believe al-Assad would call their bluff or what but it has completely boxed Obama in.

This is an absolutely textbook case for why politicians and diplomats always, always, always leave themselves an out with weasel words. Precisely so you don't get put in a position where you have to bomb the shit out of someone you don't really want to bomb because some ill-thought out words put you in a corner where it's that or back down in front of the entire world. Because if you back down on this then North Korea and Iran and the rest of the gang know they can back you down.

Is that a reason to kill a bunch of people? I don't think so. Which is why you don't make absolute statements you really don't want to back up with actions.
posted by Justinian at 11:27 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think if Saddam was doing what Assad is doing right now, Obama's opposition to intervention would not have been a centerpiece of his political ascension.

Saddam did do what Assad is allegedly doing right now, in fact on a much larger scale. He was finally punished. Was it worth it?


I don't know bout y'all, but when I write putting something in present tense can be important. Saddam was neutered by the time of the invasion, Assad is humping away. I think the proper answer to this circumstance is still non-intervention, but the question is very different in nature.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:31 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Let me try to be clear. I think in the circumstance of children dying in an instant from chemical exposure via a bomb from the government dropping from the sky we need to make a very careful choice. I don't think our experience with fake fear of this scenario from 2002 should decide our course either way. Let's decide as if the threat was real and ongoing, because it appears to be so.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:38 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing is, I am not convinced that bombs dropping from the sky will save any children. It's possible that it will cause more children to die. I suppose the parties might behave better if faced with the threat of bombs dropping from the sky, but I'm not sure, and every indication is that this is not a threat: the war machine is geared up and will not stop.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:53 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying more bombs will improve the situation. I am saying be careful if you might be communicating that this current situation is less than a dangerous and ongoing humanitarian crisis of historic proportions.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:03 AM on August 28, 2013


It's an ongoing humanitarian crisis. I'm not sure it's of historic proportions, though. It's not even the biggest humanitarian crisis of the last decade.
posted by Justinian at 1:43 AM on August 28, 2013


ok
posted by Drinky Die at 2:06 AM on August 28, 2013


AElfwine, could you expand on that last point some more? My understanding was that the US had not delivered any significant military aid. Not contradicting you, just genuinely curious.

Yeah, no problem.

U.S. admits funding Syrian opposition

NATO vs. Syria

NATO and Turkey Support Armed Rebels in Syria

US helping to train and arm Islamic mercenaries to fight in Syria

NATO Airlifts Libyans to Rebels, Russia Feeds Intel to Syrian Ruler

British Special Forces, CIA and MI6 Supporting Armed Insurgency

The Covert US War Against Syria

US Training Syrian Forces In Jordan

U.S. training Syrian rebels; White House 'stepped up assistance'

U.S. has secretly provided arms training to Syria rebels since 2012

So I don't find the moral argument by the interventionists to be convincing in the least given that we are directly responsible for things reaching this point.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:00 AM on August 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


Pepe Escobar from Asia Times
Russia's ambassador in the UN Security Council, Vitaly Churkin, presented conclusive evidence - based on documents and Russian satellite images - of two rockets carrying toxic chemicals, fired from Douma, controlled by the Syrian "rebels".
posted by adamvasco at 5:06 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


So I don't find the moral argument by the interventionists to be convincing in the least given that we are directly responsible for things reaching this point.

I just don't understand what political aims will be accomplished by bombing Syria. Or is this more of Obama's three dimensional chess?
posted by KokuRyu at 9:54 AM on August 28, 2013


Anybody have any idea on these claims... Not sure I trust the outlets linked to.

At the same time - it makes a LOT of sense the power play happening behind the scenes. Though I am not sure about the "Chechens controlled by Saudis" bullshit.

I'm really really nervous right now. At some point the US is going to get some goddamn massive blowback if they keep playing these games.
posted by symbioid at 9:55 AM on August 28, 2013


James Fallows: Here's a Wild Idea About Syria: Make the Case to Congress. It would be better for America if Congress had to consider the arguments for military action. It would be better for Obama too.
posted by homunculus at 10:04 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


KokuRyu - it does us no good when we misrepresent our opponent's capabilities.

It's Twelve Dimensional Chess, not Three. Please.
posted by symbioid at 10:10 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just don't understand what political aims will be accomplished by bombing Syria. Or is this more of Obama's three dimensional chess?

Domestic or International?

International is easy -- Assad gone is one less ally for the Iranians (and for the Russians); Hezbollah is weakened significantly; the Sunni allies and business partners of the West are stronger in the region; Israel gains some security; the United States' position as Big Power guarantor of security and ongoing business is preserved against nascent challenges from Russia and China.

Domestically? That's tougher to parse for me (because it's harder to see the players?), although energy, finance, security interests probably all make out all right. The imperial presidency is strengthened, which may better serve those same interests. Electoral politics don't really figure into it, at least not yet.
posted by notyou at 10:20 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


humanfont: "If you define the victory condition as punishing Assad instead of regime change you can stop anytime you want to and declare victory."

"I can totally stop all this warmongering, any time, I swear! I'm not addicted! No! I can quit, I've done it like... a couple times in my 200 year history. "
posted by symbioid at 10:50 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


So I guess the US is at war with Russia now.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:51 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Guardian Live.
I can hardly believe this shit.
The reporters at the state department seem in disbelief that the US would act outside of a UN mandate.

Harf says it's "imperative" to act:

"We feel it is imperative for us in the international community to respond," Harf says. "Syria cannot hide behind Russian intransigence."

Q: Are US-Russian tensions at a new high?

A: "It hasn't been a secret that we've had a strong disagreement with Russia for months over Syria," Harf says.

18m ago
Q: Why isn't the US sharing information with the supreme military council and rebel groups?

A: No decision has been made about what our next steps will be here.

Harf says US officials are in touch with FSA commander Idris and he has assured them that his forces would protect UN personnel in the country.

21m ago
Harf says Assad is responsible for the chemical weapons attack, no matter who in the military (she takes it as granted it was the Syrian military) – launched it:

The commander in chief of any military is ultimately responsible, even if... he's not the one that pushes the button, or says Go on this.

I'm not intimately familiar with the command and control structure of the Syrian military. ... I just don't know the facts.

[Assad] is responsible for their use. He is responsible either way.
............
So in summary they don't know the facts but they want to kill a whole lot of people anyway.
posted by adamvasco at 11:27 AM on August 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


The no-fly-zone over Iraq was costing about $1B a year, couldn't go on forever, and I'm not sure if there was really any other exit plan besides "regime change" or just stopping it and letting the Kurds get slaughtered.

What a bargain!
posted by Sys Rq at 11:28 AM on August 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


symbioid: "I'm really really nervous right now. At some point the US is going to get some goddamn massive blowback if they keep playing these games."


9/11, let me show you it. This is nothing new for American policy in the middle east. We and the Russians have been playing proxy war games, using Arabic-speaking chess pieces, for decades.

Sorry, I don't mean to be flippant, I think I've just hit the end point of my hope. I'm resigned to the fact that all the phone calls, all the letters, all the showing up in person to talk with legislators, it's all been a complete waste of time. This isn't the 60s, they aren't afraid of us because Americans would never foment revolution, but especially not just because of foreign policy. And there's a whole lot of folks who believe that a dead Arab is the only good Arab. And to them, everyone in that region is an Arab.

The big problem is that those idiots elected the Teahadist and Friends group of idiots who are now in the political driver's seat. They have all the power, they have all the money, they can buy all the elections they need, gerrymander any district they can't buy.

They aren't afraid of us, because we can do nothing to stop them. The Supreme Court began handing the country over to the war profiteers and chicken hawks with it's anointment of George II, and it finished wrapping it with Citizens United, and put the big ol bow on it with the dissolution of the voting rights act.

I don't know what to do anymore. I feel like Cassandra, with my constant "this is not the way" letters and marching and occupy, and whatever else. It just doesn't fucking matter. We can't stop them. Obama and the chickenhawks are about to start committing murder in my name, and I can't stop them. I don't know what else to do.
posted by dejah420 at 11:41 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ugh.
posted by DynamiteToast at 11:48 AM on August 28, 2013


Syria is a much more complex and difficult situation than Libya. Yet where was this outrage during the Libyan campaign? Gadaffi never gassed his people. There were still jihadists and foreign fighters in that campaign; not all of the opposition groups were any less shady than the ones fighting in Syria now. Just ask Ambassador Stevens.

So what does that say about the current outrage? Was it because Libya was an easier war? Are we more outraged now because there is more to lose? Because this war would be harder? What does that say about our ethical calculus?
posted by Apocryphon at 11:49 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Haven't we been over this in this thread? No one cared about Gaddafi. Assad is an ally to Russia and Iran. There's a lot more on the line if we intervene in Syria.

Also wasn't the Libya intervention championed by France et. al.? It feels like the US is the only power that really wants to intervene and everyone else is just stalling.
posted by DynamiteToast at 11:55 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even if Assad used chemical weapons, the west has no mandate to act as a global policeman
posted by KokuRyu at 12:07 PM on August 28, 2013


4) The opposition is incapable of providing government services: Millions of Syrians still depend on the government for their livelihoods, basic services, and infrastructure. The government continues to supply hundreds of thousands of Syrians with salaries & retirement benefits. Destroying these state services with no capacity to replace them would plunge ever larger numbers of Syrians into even darker circumstances and increase the outflow of refugees beyond its already high level. Syria can get worse.
More reasons not to intervene.
posted by fatbird at 12:09 PM on August 28, 2013


So I guess the US is at war with Russia now.

No. What we're witnessing is the permanent members of the UNSC: China, Russia, US, UK and France turning hysterical. Ugly. They need to get a room.

The UK has backpedalled a little and is returning to the UNSC with a demanding submission. No idea what France is doing. And the US is preoccupied with "I have a dream" dissonance right now. But the US will return to the UNSC, September 1, with a menu of options disguised as an ultimatum; it'll give Russia room to move.

Meanwhile ...

Bun Ki-moon is stoically over in The Hague celebrating the centenary of the Peace Palace. He took the opportunity to remind the permanent members of the UNSC that UN weapons inspectors were still on the ground in Syria, and that they should: "Give peace a chance. Give diplomacy a chance. Stop fighting and start talking."

Not one for feigning moral indignation for attention, Bun did state "The use of chemical weapons by anyone, for any reasons, under any circumstances, would be an atrocious violation of international law." Furthermore " ... here in this hall dedicated to the rule of law, I say: let us adhere to the United Nations Charter."

Nah ... the US isn't at war with Russia. It's at war with itself.
posted by de at 12:12 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Obama and the chickenhawks are about to start committing murder in my name, and I can't stop them. I don't know what else to do.

It's ok you've already taken the first step; admitting we have a problem.

The next step is to quit voting for Democrats or Republicans and start voting for 3rd party candidates. One would think that at this point in time after pretty much every president since...wait when was the last time we had a president who wasn't bombing some third world country???? Yeah, so I would think that any halfway rational person in full control of their reason and other faculties would be able to discern a pattern at this point, but I have to say I fully expect that during the next election everybody who votes will be right back in the voting booth voting for the same assholes from the same fuckjob parties.

No one cared about Gaddafi.

What? Really? Cause I remember some people caring. I suggest you go to the metafilter search box and type in libya, read over some of the threads, and get back to us.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:24 PM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sorry if that came across as snarky but I am kinda in a rush atm and don't have time to link to all of the pertinent threads.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:24 PM on August 28, 2013


I think DynamiteToast meant that no other country with the power to do anything about the situation cared about Gaddafi in the way that Russia and Iran care about Syria. So we could beat up Libya without fear of repercussions. Because that's what heroes do; beat up weak countries nobody cares about.
posted by Justinian at 12:27 PM on August 28, 2013


Another reason you may not remember Obama taking as much heat over Libya is that he had U.N. backing in that case.

And on preview:

I think DynamiteToast meant that no other country with the power to do anything about the situation cared about Gaddafi in the way that Russia and Iran care about Syria.

Yeah I was just getting that as I went back over the thread. Gaddafi was definitely much more isolated internationally than Syria.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:30 PM on August 28, 2013


Haven't we been over this in this thread? No one cared about Gaddafi. Assad is an ally to Russia and Iran. There's a lot more on the line if we intervene in Syria.

That's the point. The earlier response to me did explain how Syria is a much more difficult situation in Libya. I'm talking about the moral rationales against or for intervention. It seems like they didn't crop out nearly as much with Libya, because frankly, Libyan was an easier situation.

So we could beat up Libya without fear of repercussions. Because that's what heroes do; beat up weak countries nobody cares about.

Yeah that's basically the point I'm making. Was there a big anti-Libyan intervention crowd?
posted by Apocryphon at 12:42 PM on August 28, 2013


Speaking about pertinent links: Ban Ki-moon.
posted by de at 12:43 PM on August 28, 2013


Apocryphon: There was me and I'm kind of a big deal.
posted by Justinian at 12:48 PM on August 28, 2013


fatbird: "
4) The opposition is incapable of providing government services...Syria can get worse.
More reasons not to intervene.
"

"Confessions of an Economic Hitman" Privatization 101.

Think it's ironic that both Iraq and Syria were run by Baathists? The two secular, pan-arab, socialist regimes?
posted by symbioid at 1:00 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Haven't we been over this in this thread? No one cared about Gaddafi. Assad is an ally to Russia and Iran. There's a lot more on the line if we intervene in Syria.

Granted that Gaddafi was more isolated, but I don't buy that Russia would in any way go to the mat for Syria. Putin's desperate to start gaining some serious regional sovereignty cred. as the global reach of the US begins to flag, but other than digging in diplomatic heels at the UN I have trouble believing an actual material consequence would ever manifest.

Iran? Who the fuck cares? There is no measure short of direct military conflict (suicidal on their part, fucking expensive on ours) by which we don't already antagonize one another. Both Israel AND the US are a hair's breadth away from outright carpet bombing all suspected nuclear manufacturing facilities in the country, and both have the air power advantage to pull it off nearly bloodlessly.

My point being: Russia might huff a little but wouldn't lift a finger for Assad, and nothing we do in Syria changes our situation with Iran in the slightest.

Because that's what heroes do; beat up weak countries nobody cares about.

I'm pretty sure that preventing the slaughter of civilians is heroic. I've yet to see anybody seriously propose more than bombing airbases that are situated outside major civilian enclaves. Should anybody in power start the attempts to rationalize boots on foreign soil, I guarantee you that I will be screaming to the high heavens as loudly as anybody else here.

There's a difference between acting on a moral imperative and cynical power-brokering. I don't want people to be killed, but if the price of preventing another ten thousand deaths at Assad's hands is a hundred civilian bystanders (and that's a very high estimate if we stick to runways and hangars), then that exchange palpably works toward the greater good.
posted by Ryvar at 1:15 PM on August 28, 2013


then that exchange palpably works toward the greater good

You can't simply look at it in isolation as though it's an algebraic equation. Military interventions increase the acceptability and the likelihood of other adventurism down the road. To borrow political theory, it shifts the Overton window. If we simply stop bombing people when our national security isn't at risk we don't end up with more disasters like Iraq. And preventing a single disaster like Iraq is morally better than getting involved in a dozen Syrias.
posted by Justinian at 1:26 PM on August 28, 2013


Or to put it differently:
I want our troops to stay home and all these missiles we've already bought to be put to use for purposes that don't make me ashamed to be an American. I don't care if the democratic governments we enable hate our guts as much or more than the other guy - given our prior actions in the region we don't deserve allies. But if our empire is in fact dying, the least we can do is put its power in the service of worthy ideals and innocent people on our way out the door.

And preventing a single disaster like Iraq is morally better than getting involved in a dozen Syrias.

I could not agree more. I think the rest of what you wrote is a slippery slope argument, but I agree with this part.
posted by Ryvar at 1:30 PM on August 28, 2013


There's a difference between acting on a moral imperative and cynical power-brokering. I don't want people to be killed, but if the price of preventing another ten thousand deaths at Assad's hands is a hundred civilian bystanders (and that's a very high estimate if we stick to runways and hangars), then that exchange palpably works toward the greater good.

Again you don't seem to factor into your moral reasoning the fact that the only reason Assad's regime is in the position it's in is specifically because of U.S., European, and gulf state's backing of the rebels. It would be like Russia or China bankrolling and training rebels in the U.S. and when we start to try and put down the rebellion they use that as a pretext to bomb us. You know to protect civilians; never mind all the civilians killed because the armed and well trained rebels clashing with the central government...they don't factor in until we say they do and then they are only the ones killed by chemical weapons...at least that seems to be the reasoning here.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:32 PM on August 28, 2013


all these missiles we've already bought to be put to use for purposes that don't make me ashamed to be an American.

Let's not sunk cost fallacy our way into a war.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:32 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ryvar: Both Israel AND the US are a hair's breadth away from outright carpet bombing all suspected nuclear manufacturing facilities in the country, and both have the air power advantage to pull it off nearly bloodlessly.

Whose blood?

In a thread which has bounced back and forth from insightful analysis to rank stupidity, this might be the stupidest statement of the lot. I mean, seriously, if you think that the US and/or Israel can bomb Iran's suspected nuclear facilities "bloodlessly" then ... you're not even wrong. Well, you are wrong, but it's such a spectacularly detached-from-reality version of wrong that it might as well be not wrong.

You don't think that this wouldn't ignite a horrifically vicious seven or eight country Middle East war? With the added possibility of the use of all those nukes that Israel doesn't officially have? This is inasne.
posted by Len at 1:33 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


You don't think that this wouldn't ignite a horrifically vicious seven or eight country Middle East war?

Umm, as far as I know nobody in the neighborhood is really super excited about the idea of Iranian nukes.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:35 PM on August 28, 2013


I think the rest of what you wrote is a slippery slope argument

Slippery slope arguments are not inherently invalid. They depend on the logical connections between the initial action and the foreseeable results. And I think the history of the past 20 years demonstrates my assertion fairly conclusively.
posted by Justinian at 1:36 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Drinky Die: Umm, as far as I know nobody in the neighborhood is really super excited about the idea of Iranian nukes.

No, but seriously; set aside the existence or not of Iranian nuclear weapons. Let's say Israel bombs the sites it suspects Iran is using to manufacture them. Possibly with the help of the US (if only in the form of intelligence).

What's the happy ending to that story?
posted by Len at 1:37 PM on August 28, 2013


Assad's regime is in the position it's in is specifically because of U.S., European, and gulf state's backing of the rebels.

I must have missed the part where we forced him to detain and torture (frequently to death) tens of thousands of his own people before the rebellion was even serious to warrant our notice. That's not to suggest that some of the rebels aren't every bit as bad: Matt Schrier, that photojournalist who recently escaped months of torture at their hands is a friend of a friend and grew up in my hometown.

What's the happy ending to that story?

None. Israel and the US will both require a few days to demolish the Iranian air defenses - technologically they're as dated as Syria but there's far more layers to chew through, and either would lose a few escort fighters but otherwise nothing. With the airspace secured, any long-range missile sites and the nuclear facilities in question are quickly demolished, and being fairly isolated from civilian areas for practical security purposes the total civilian deaths are probably well under a thousand. Iran is left with no retaliatory capacity and no culpable neighbors to invade, but pours far more resources into backing the Palestinians which makes Israel's domestic life far more miserable. Most of the regional powers follow Saudi Arabia's lead and stay silent because money.
posted by Ryvar at 1:45 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wildcard is Egypt, because we're still not sure how that's going to shake out now that their military is off our fiscal leash.
posted by Ryvar at 1:47 PM on August 28, 2013


Relax Ryvar. Rome didn't fall in a day ;-)
posted by de at 1:50 PM on August 28, 2013


Yeah, and it committed a LOT of atrocities in its death throes. I'd prefer a slightly less damning epitaph for American Imperialism, while we still have some measure of control over it.
posted by Ryvar at 1:56 PM on August 28, 2013


Ryvar: None. Israel and the US will both require a few days to demolish the Iranian air defenses - technologically they're as dated as Syria but there's far more layers to chew through, and either would lose a few escort fighters but otherwise nothing. With the airspace secured, any long-range missile sites and the nuclear facilities in question are quickly demolished, and being fairly isolated from civilian areas for practical security purposes the total civilian deaths are probably well under a thousand.

And yes, of course, Russia will accept this with absolutely no problem whatsoever. It won't have any geopolitical repercussions regarding Iran's borders to the east with Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the factions who are, de facto, in control of them. Less than a thousand casualties? Why, the bombers will practically be greeted with flowers. And the Straits of Hormuz will continue to operate as normal.

Iran is left with no retaliatory capacity and no culpable neighbors to invade, but pours far more resources into backing the Palestinians which makes Israel's domestic life far more miserable. Most of the regional powers follow Saudi Arabia's lead and stay silent because money.

So no blowback for the residents of Palestine, other than it being even grimmer than it currently is. And everyone will just slide into "but think about the $$$$!" line behind Saudi Arabia, despite Syria – not to mention Lebanon, and Iran, and various Iraqi factions – having outside backing of some sort, whether that means Russia, or various sectarian/factional links with a whole panoply of groups, all of whom are keen, for their own (not necessarily related or even sympathetic) reasons, to prop up various bit of current Middle East power structures?

I mean, it's almost as if you're saying "well, the whole thing's fucked. Let's make sure it's as fucked as possible, and then we can start from scratch. "

Oh, and I'm glad the wild card is only a country of 80+ million people whose current leaders don't mind public massacres on the level of Tianenmen Square, and who have control over one of the world's most important shipping lanes to use as a bargaining chip.
posted by Len at 2:03 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd prefer a slightly less damning epitaph for American Imperialism

ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant seems pretty johnny on the spot at this point.
posted by Justinian at 2:07 PM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


And yes, of course, Russia will accept this with absolutely no problem whatsoever.

Realistically, what would they do? Their conventional military is a shadow of its former power, and from their perspective the fate of Iran is hardly worth a nuclear response. I'm genuinely curious as to what you think their response would be.

It won't have any geopolitical repercussions regarding Iran's borders to the east with Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the factions who are, de facto, in control of them.

Why would it? The people in both of those countries could not possibly hate America or Israel more than they already do, one is an actual no-longer-in-prototyping nuclear power and the other a graveyard for every invader since history began, ourselves included. What actual consequence are you implying, here?

Less than a thousand casualties? Why, the bombers will practically be greeted with flowers. And the Straits of Hormuz will continue to operate as normal.

Again I have to ask what the scenario looks like in your mind: are you proposing Iranian airstrikes on an American carrier group, or direct naval combat? Iranian air capability would not survive the first six hours of any possible version of this scenario, and the sort of air power America and Israel can bring to bear renders any notions of naval conflict absurd.

despite Syria – not to mention Lebanon, and Iran, and various Iraqi factions – having outside backing of some sort,

The ratio of military power between Israel or the US vs. any and all of those countries is functionally infinite. We can destroy their airbases with impunity, and they have no conventional weapons which can realistically harm us. Again, I have to ask what exactly you have in mind?
posted by Ryvar at 2:32 PM on August 28, 2013


Here's a Wild Idea About Syria: Make the Case to Congress.

And who better than Colin Powell.
posted by JackFlash at 2:42 PM on August 28, 2013


No, but seriously; set aside the existence or not of Iranian nuclear weapons. Let's say Israel bombs the sites it suspects Iran is using to manufacture them. Possibly with the help of the US (if only in the form of intelligence).

What's the happy ending to that story?


We can't really set aside the the nuclear program because it would be the only reason for a potential strike. A nuclear armed Iran is also not a story pointing to happy times ahead so the decision makers would have to judge which bad story they preferred.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:45 PM on August 28, 2013


As we speak the NY Times is trying to get back on its feet after a DNS hack by the SEA, as was Twitter. This is what an attack in a modern war looks like right, you just got hit. They are trying to shut down the press because they don't like what it's reporting.

Iranians are not mad mullahs and they don't want war. Iran spends less money on arms than Columbia, around 1% of what you spend and about 2% of GDP (yours is ~4.5%, (priorities, priorities)). The army is junk, just hundreds of thousands of conscripts to feed and no real equipment. Iran will not start a war, they have so much to lose and even losing enough materiel a day long campaign would leave them vulnerable to local rivals. Again the Iranian AD system is just junk, again, it's not a network.

Oh, and I'm glad the wild card is only a country of 80+ million people whose current leaders don't mind public massacres on the level of Tianenmen Square, and who have control over one of the world's most important shipping lanes to use as a bargaining chip.
posted by Len


Ah those Mad Mullahs, so unlike us don't you think? But even your contention that they control the straits of Hormuz can't be taken as fact. It really comes down to this: when you outspend someone by a factor of a 100 and you have the finest universities in the world and chip fabs and carriers and drones you can pretty much do what the fuck you want with them. Sad fact. Straits of Hormuz is no different.
posted by fingerbang at 3:04 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Again you don't seem to factor into your moral reasoning the fact that the only reason Assad's regime is in the position it's in is specifically because of U.S., European, and gulf state's backing of the rebels

That is not true. The only reason Assad is in this position is because Iran has given him heaps of cash to buy weapons from Russia which he has used to murder his own people because they dared demand their inaliable human rights. The people of Syria rose up on a peaceful protest and he choose to start murdering them, rather than support a political transition. Faced with defeat, he turned to foreign soldiers from Hezbollah. They did not succeed and now he has started to use chemical weapons. You would blame people who have decided to stand up to a tyrant and those who have aided them rather than the tyrant. I see nothing moral in your position.
posted by humanfont at 3:07 PM on August 28, 2013


Iran knows it cannot fight a conventional war against the United States so pointing at their conventional military spending is a dodge. They would fight back using unconventional means.
posted by Justinian at 3:08 PM on August 28, 2013


I must have missed the part where we forced him to detain and torture (frequently to death) tens of thousands of his own people before the rebellion was even serious to warrant our notice.

I must have missed the part where I made that claim. I also must have missed the part where any sane person was suggesting that we bomb every country that is currently repressing its people.

None. Israel and the US will both require a few days to demolish the Iranian air defenses - technologically they're as dated as Syria but there's far more layers to chew through, and either would lose a few escort fighters but otherwise nothing. With the airspace secured, any long-range missile sites and the nuclear facilities in question are quickly demolished, and being fairly isolated from civilian areas for practical security purposes the total civilian deaths are probably well under a thousand. Iran is left with no retaliatory capacity and no culpable neighbors to invade, but pours far more resources into backing the Palestinians which makes Israel's domestic life far more miserable. Most of the regional powers follow Saudi Arabia's lead and stay silent because money.

And the world is once again shown that America has the biggest dick.

That is not true.

Are you claiming that we have not been training and arming the rebels?

The only reason Assad is in this position is because Iran has given him heaps of cash to buy weapons from Russia which he has used to murder his own people because they dared demand their inaliable human rights.

Which has exactly what to do with us?

The people of Syria rose up on a peaceful protest and he choose to start murdering them, rather than support a political transition.

The same thing happened to the people of Bahrain, and I don't see us doing anything in that situation. What would you think if Russia were arming and training rebels in Bahrain where we base our 5th Fleet? Do you think the U.S. would then allow Russia to bomb Bahrain because they were killing their own people.

Faced with defeat, he turned to foreign soldiers from Hezbollah. They did not succeed and now he has started to use chemical weapons.

Which, again, has jack all to do with us.

You would blame people who have decided to stand up to a tyrant and those who have aided them rather than the tyrant.

No that is not at all what I have done. What I have done is asked by what moral authority we get off bombing whoever we see fit. I mean at this rate if we ever want to bomb a country we can just foment armed rebellion there, wait until the government of said country starts putting the rebellion down, and then bomb their asses.

I see nothing moral in your position.

Then you apparently don't know how to factor causality into your moral calculus.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:50 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


So just to illustrate my point a bit better:

Saudi Arabia helps crush the democratic uprising in Bahrain

Bahrain: Rebellion and Repression (2011-2012)

Bahrain: Tension, repression escalate ahead of Day of Tamarrud

Now imagine that some very powerful and influential third party were arming and training rebels in Bahrain. When Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa got desperate enough and started to kill massive amounts of civillians do you think that same third party would then be morally justified in bombing Bahrain?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:06 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Rude Pundit: Studying War Some More
posted by homunculus at 4:16 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


So the preferred 'left-wing isolationist' view is to just let Assad do his thing and crush the resistance, as we lack the proper moral credentials?
posted by rosswald at 4:32 PM on August 28, 2013


Aelfwine you seem to want to construct an alternate fantasy situation rather than discuss the real world. You might as well propose we imagine what if the king of Saudi Arabia is actually the Joker and Assad is Bruce Wayne.
posted by humanfont at 4:34 PM on August 28, 2013


The preferred left-wing isolationist view is that you can't bomb your way to peace, no matter how much you wish it were so. We've had decade after fucking decade of this lesson being writ large in blood, and some still fail to learn it.
posted by fatbird at 4:37 PM on August 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


The Civil War Within Syria's Civil War: Armies of Kurdish women are taking on Syria's Islamists -- and winning.
posted by homunculus at 4:41 PM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


rosswald: So the preferred 'left-wing isolationist' view is to just let Assad do his thing and crush the resistance, as we lack the proper moral credentials?

Do you have a better idea?
posted by Juffo-Wup at 4:47 PM on August 28, 2013


It just seems to me that not intervening when we have the power to do so, resulting in the deaths of thousands of non-combatants, is equally immoral to intervening - violating a country's sovereignty and killing people to prevent further massacres.

I don't have an answer or even a full formed opinion, but it seems many people are couching their arguments in terms of absolute morality... and they are full of it.
posted by rosswald at 5:07 PM on August 28, 2013


It just seems to me that the only "intervention" that would lead to anything but the status quo or fanatic/fundamentalist leadership would be to completely invade the country and take it over. And I'm pretty sure that type of thing doesn't usually work out very well.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 5:15 PM on August 28, 2013


not intervening when we have the power to do so ... is equally immoral to intervening

We have the power to intervene. We don't have the power to intervene effectively, which is to say, to stop the civil war and create a stable peace. Anything else leads to continued bloodshed of civilian and military alike, in numbers far greater than any gas attack, and now that our fingers are in the pie, we're responsible for those consequences as well.
posted by fatbird at 5:24 PM on August 28, 2013


Although I know the focus in this thread has been on the US, it seems that David Cameron may have been in danger of facing a Commons defeat over a motion to bomb Syria. So, the US is backing off... for now.

Such a move by the Obama administration would effectively hand Cameron a political lifeline after the opposition Labour party threatened to inflict a defeat on the Conservative-led coalition in parliament.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:25 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


It just seems to me that not intervening when we have the power to do so, resulting in the deaths of thousands of non-combatants, is equally immoral to intervening - violating a country's sovereignty and killing people to prevent further massacres.

The part that the interventionists can't seem to understand is that we have already been "intervening" in Syria for quite some time now and all we have to show for it is 100,000 dead civilians, a destabilized region, and no end in sight...and now people think that more intervention in the form of bombing is going to make things better?

but it seems many people are couching their arguments in terms of absolute morality... and they are full of it.

This is actually the opposite of what is happening. The interventionists are the ones framing the argument in terms of absolute morality.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:01 PM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


So much for moral imperatives, huh, KokoRyu. It would be a moral atrocity (alright) if Cameron were to lose his power position over opportunism gone wrong. (Utilitarians, the lot of them. No morals, all maths. One Western leader is worth more than 355 middle east women and children. Got it.)

> but it seems many people are couching their arguments in terms of absolute morality... and they are full of it.

My sensibilities are way more offended having witnessed the likes of Hague, Cameron, Kerry, Carney (Carney FFS!), and Biden, try to pull the wool, using moral indignation over the deaths of 355 ... for their purposes.

What is a proportional punishment to divvy out to any criminal regime for that one particular chemical warfare incident (toll greater than or equal to 355)? That's the question. Does the UN not have that written up in Chapter 7? Why not?

Morality was a prop. Obama demonstrated none of the moral indignation in his "I haven't decided yet" announcement. What a joke.
posted by de at 6:05 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


It just seems to me that not intervening when we have the power to do so, resulting in the deaths of thousands of non-combatants, is equally immoral to intervening

That's not the way it works. We are morally responsible for the lives we take if we intervene. The al-Assad regime is morally responsible for the lives he takes if we don't intervene, not us.

This is pretty easy to demonstrate. You, yourself, could right now be on a plane flying to help out a refugee camp for displaced Syrians. Instead you're having a discussion on Metafilter. Does that mean you are personally morally culpable for the suffering you could have prevented because you made the choice not to fly to the Middle East? Of course not.

We as nations (since there are more than just Americans here) are not responsible for al-Assads actions any more than you are personally responsible for the suffering you could have prevented if you had been out volunteering instead of posting to Metafilter.
posted by Justinian at 6:31 PM on August 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


Is referring to Bashar al-Assad as "al-Assad" like referring to Leonardo da Vinci as "da Vinci"? If so, sorry for the awfulness.
posted by Justinian at 6:35 PM on August 28, 2013




"We have the power to intervene. We don't have the power to intervene effectively..."
posted by fatbird

Actually you do have the power to make a tremendous difference on the ground and the FSA would be ecstatic to give you a target list.

I suspect they would really like it if you took out some of the artillery that just nerve gassed them. Going out on a limb here but I suspect they would appreciate that.

You could also help them by killing some senior leaders. Before we get all 'presidential order blah blah blah here's Foreign Policy on the Assad clan:

"... In 1970, Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father, seized power after rising through the ranks of the Syrian armed forces, during which time he established a network of loyal Alawites by installing them in key posts. In fact, the military, ruling elite, and ruthless secret police are so intertwined that it is now impossible to separate the Assad government from the security establishment"...

These people are not 'politicians' mmkay.
posted by fingerbang at 7:09 PM on August 28, 2013


So the preferred 'left-wing isolationist' view is to just let Assad do his thing and crush the resistance, as we lack the proper moral credentials?

No. That's ridiculous. We want diplomacy. Talking. At the same table. For as long as it takes. Instead what we get is Obama playing Cold War games with Russia, fucking postponing an upcoming summit about just these issues while planning a burst of multiple cruise missile strikes. Look, the "we either bomb immediately or we do nothing" framing is a complete failure of imagination - not to mention basic common sense. Here's at least one thoughtful response, an interview with Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies:

So, the notion that we are going to somehow escalate these attacks in Syria, rather than saying this is a moment when we desperately need diplomacy—we heard today that the U.S. just announced that the scheduled meeting between the U.S. and Russia, scheduled for today, the U.S. now said, "We want to delay that. We don’t want to have it. We don’t think this is a good time." This is exactly the time. We need to be talking to Russia, to Iran, to all of the U.S. allies that are supporting the other side, to force the various parties to peace talks. There is no military solution. This is what Congresswoman Barbara Lee said yesterday, and it’s absolutely true. There is no military solution. Extra assaults from the United States is going to make the situation worse, is going to put Syrian civilians at greater risk, not provide protection.

And it's worth keeping in mind that we're not talking here about bombing chemical weapons sites, which would, um, spread chemical weapons. We're talking about bombs being hurled against targets filled with human beings, according to today's NYTimes:

The attacks, which are expected to involve scores of Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from American destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, would not be focused on chemical weapons storage sites, which would risk an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe and could open up the sites to raids by militants, officials said.

The strikes would instead be aimed at military units that have carried out chemical attacks, the headquarters overseeing the effort and the rockets and artillery that have launched the attacks, according to the options being reviewed within the administration. An American official said that the initial target lists included fewer than 50 sites, including air bases where Syria’s Russian-made attack helicopters are deployed. The list includes command and control centers as well as a variety of conventional military targets.


Air bases, headquarters and command and control centers. With lots of secretaries, janitors and other low-level personnel around, I'd bet. Yaaay. That won't help solidify the support of the - what? - half of the country that's still behind Assad? Nope. Not at all. It's stunning to me that anyone who's looked at recent history (including the way the US bombing of Libya led to a newly armed and resurgent al Qaeda in Northern Africa) could possibly think bombing any part of Syria is a good idea. It's strategically stupid, counterproductive and a poor substitute for basic, human, creative diplomacy, which might take longer and be less satisfying to the warmongers at home, but is 100% certain to be a better option than causing more chaos by dropping bombs on yet another country that hasn't attacked the United States.

Just stunning.
posted by mediareport at 7:13 PM on August 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


These people are not 'politicians' mmkay.

Don't get ahead of our own politicians. The issue is (still) the use of chemical weapons. It's illegal.
posted by de at 7:18 PM on August 28, 2013


Who launched those chemical weapons, de? Do you know? Let's look at that evidence again:

Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people. Those conversations were overheard by U.S. intelligence services, The Cable has learned. And that is the major reason why American officials now say they're certain that the attacks were the work of the Bashar al-Assad regime -- and why the U.S. military is likely to attack that regime in a matter of days.

But the intercept raises questions about culpability for the chemical massacre, even as it answers others: Was the attack on Aug. 21 the work of a Syrian officer overstepping his bounds? Or was the strike explicitly directed by senior members of the Assad regime? "It's unclear where control lies," one U.S. intelligence official told The Cable. "Is there just some sort of general blessing to use these things? Or are there explicit orders for each attack?"

Nor are U.S. analysts sure of the Syrian military's rationale for launching the strike -- if it had a rationale at all. Perhaps it was a lone general putting a long-standing battle plan in motion; perhaps it was a miscalculation by the Assad government. Whatever the reason, the attack has triggered worldwide outrage, and put the Obama administration on the brink of launching a strike of its own in Syria. "We don't know exactly why it happened," the intelligence official added. "We just know it was pretty fucking stupid."


Aaand, that's it. That's the entire fucking rationale for bombing Syria RIGHT NOW, without a public Congressional debate and without working to get UN Security Council authorization, while simultaneously postponing a meeting with the one member of that Council most opposed to the attack.

We don't know what the fuck went on with those chemical weapons. A massive blunder? An al Qaeda sympathizer within the Syrian military? Assad being a vicious murdering dick, again? We. Just. Don't. Know. Calling for a unilateral US military strike at this point is so goddamn premature and stupidly shortsighted it's disgusting.
posted by mediareport at 7:40 PM on August 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


I can't read Foreign Policy. The magazine wants money from me, which I will not spend. What the hell does the article say? (Never mind. Found it in Chrome. Warning of intensely annoying barriers to just reading an article would be nice.)
posted by raysmj at 7:45 PM on August 28, 2013


Actually you do have the power to make a tremendous difference on the ground and the FSA would be ecstatic to give you a target list.

The FSA? Those are the guys you want to make happy? The guys accused of torturing and executing prisoners? Who use captured enemy soldiers for proxy suicide bombings? Who use child soldiers? One of whose commanders cut out the heart of an enemy soldier and appeared to eat it on video?

These are the guys you're holding up as people who just want a shot at democracy?

Yes, we have the power to tip the scales in their civil war. That doesn't mean we have the power to stop the war, to save lives, to craft a stable peace. Not with bombs and cruise missiles anyway.
posted by fatbird at 7:50 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


A massive blunder? An al Qaeda sympathizer within the Syrian military? Assad being a vicious murdering dick, again? We. Just. Don't. Know.

For those willing to intervene for humanitarian purposes, I don't think it makes much of a difference why precisely the Syrian military gassed the civilians. There isn't really an explanation that excuses the military leadership of responsibility for what the military they command is doing.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:54 PM on August 28, 2013


We don't know what the fuck went on with those chemical weapons. A massive blunder? An al Qaeda sympathizer within the Syrian military? Assad being a vicious murdering dick, again? We. Just. Don't. Know. Calling for a unilateral US military strike at this point is so goddamn premature and stupidly shortsighted it's disgusting.

This.

NPR was doing their best to try and claim the (secret) evidence is somehow convincing just a few hours ago on their show but the whole thing ended up sounding insane. This is way too much like a repeat of the runup to the Iraq war.
posted by odinsdream at 8:04 PM on August 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


The FSA? Those are the guys you want to make happy? The guys accused of torturing and executing prisoners? Who use captured enemy soldiers for proxy suicide bombings? Who use child soldiers? One of whose commanders cut out the heart of an enemy soldier and appeared to eat it on video?

These are the guys you're holding up as people who just want a shot at democracy?


Yes, I agree, it's frightening isn't it. But that's how democracy is supposed to work. Everyone has the right to get involved in their own future. Even bad people, even heart-eaters. So YES I do want them to win. Sorry if that isn't convenient but in the real world you make compromises to get what you want. And I want a democratic Middle East and I have a personal stake in this.

And if we're playing shit for shock value, OK fine, well how about this, what's this about?: http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/06/24/syria-detention-and-abuse-female-activists

Both sides are distasteful in many many ways but only one side can lead to democracy. Dictators don't usually give up power willingly that's probably why so many meet their end up dangling from lampposts. Sic Semper Tyrannis right? That's even on the seal of your commonwealth so it has to mean something to you.
posted by fingerbang at 8:16 PM on August 28, 2013


Yes, I agree, it's frightening isn't it. But that's how democracy is supposed to work.

You're making a very questionable assumption, namely that democracy is what they want. Maybe they actually do want it--the way Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood wanted it in Egypt. My rule of thumb in these situations is that if you descend to such barbarity in the prosecution of your war for freedom, then you're probably not going to care that much about the sort of procedural niceties that are the heart and soul of real democracy.

You keep describing the conflict like it's just "democracy lovers" vs. "Team Assad". It's not. It's a four way civil war between Assad and the Alawites (and the middle class generally), the FSA, al-Nusri (the jihadist faction, local branch of noted democracy lovers Al Qaeda), and Hezbollah and Iran (again, not really democracy mongers). This is about the democracy in the same sense that East Germany was officially named the German Democratic Republic. The use of the word is a bit of necessary throat clearing before you take another bite out of your enemy's heart.

Just because you're overthrowing a tyrant, doesn't mean you're about freedom.
posted by fatbird at 8:28 PM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Red Lines, Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station, 28 August 2013
posted by ob1quixote at 8:45 PM on August 28, 2013


You keep describing the conflict like it's just "democracy lovers" vs. "Team Assad". It's not.

No, I would not recognize your description, that's not what I think. But one of those sides can transition peacefully into a democracy and the other can't. There is hope with one side, and another 30 years of bloody murder with 99.7% of the popular vote on the other.

It's going to be a mess! Dictators are scum. This one is a fucking reptile and he has been repressing his people all my life, since the year I was born. Of COURSE they have no experience of democracy, no political parties, no organised opposition, and no opposition politicians.

Because He had them all killed, along with their families.
posted by fingerbang at 8:50 PM on August 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


WTF is going on, I feel like I'm stuck in an episode of BSG. "All of this has happened before, and will happen again." Unless we stop it. Can't even fix our own country. People are dying in the streets not far from where I live, and we aren't doing a damn thing to stop it. Why does anyone think that our elites can do any better in Syria, where people aren't just using pistols and rifles, but MGs, artillery, and suicide bombs.
posted by wuwei at 8:56 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Obama stated this evening that he has not made a decision. Looking at the calendar. The UN is still inspecting and will be there until Friday at least. Then it is labor day weekend, no member of congress wants to be getting grilled on how the unpopular war in Syria is going while doing local political events; so we can't bomb this weekend. Next week is the G20 summit in St. Petersburg Russia where Obama and Putin have a meeting. Thus Assad and his generals will have to stink up their bunkers for the next ten days while Obama waits for things to develop.
posted by humanfont at 9:04 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


it seems that David Cameron may have been in danger of facing a Commons defeat over a motion to bomb Syria

Well, I'm glad to hear at least the UK still has a functioning democracy.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:05 PM on August 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Drinky Die: "A massive blunder? An al Qaeda sympathizer within the Syrian military? Assad being a vicious murdering dick, again? We. Just. Don't. Know.

For those willing to intervene for humanitarian purposes, I don't think it makes much of a difference why precisely the Syrian military gassed the civilians. There isn't really an explanation that excuses the military leadership of responsibility for what the military they command is doing.
"

I know - it's like you would think that an administration that's all about the rule of law would support holding those at the top accountable for all the deaths and torture carried out by lower ranking individuals, even if they weren't directly implicated in the actual crimes. Oh, sorry, that's only when Obama's DOJ asks for immunity to the GWB neocon warhawks.
posted by symbioid at 9:10 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


fingerbang: "It's going to be a mess! Dictators are scum. This one is a fucking reptile and he has been repressing his people all my life, since the year I was born. "

Hi, I'm 13 and what is this?
posted by symbioid at 9:12 PM on August 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


State Dept Admits It Doesn't Know Who Ordered Syria's Chemical Strike
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:39 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Odinsdream wrote: NPR was doing their best to try and claim the (secret) evidence is somehow convincing just a few hours ago on their show

I'm from a different country and I admit that I don't get NPR. Is it basically a government mouthpiece? Because I would have thought that anyone faced with "I saw evidence that the Syrians did something but I can't say what it is" would ask "The Syrians know what it is, and you know what it is, why can't Americans know what it is?" I mean seriously, your country is going to war, but the reason has to be kept from your own citizens? Who is your government afraid of?
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:22 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


In this thread I learned that people can talk without irony about dropping humanitarian bombs.
posted by Justinian at 2:29 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Follow the Money
Syria's Pipelineistan war
Peak oil, climate change and pipeline geopolitics driving Syria conflict.
Money News - Who Wants Syria's Oil — and Why?
Why Syria? The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline would be the largest gas pipeline in the Middle East and would span from Iran’s gas-rich South Pars field to the Mediterranean coastline in Lebanon, via Iraq and Syria.
posted by adamvasco at 4:12 AM on August 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


I dunno how many of you that are advocating raining death from above have any connection to Syria or Syrians, but my mother's people are Lebanese and Syrian, as the border is really an imaginary line in a big part of that region. I have spoken to people both in and out of the country with ties, none of whom are fond of Assad. Not one of them welcome American intervention. Just saying, my sample is small, but 100% against the idea.
posted by dejah420 at 5:46 AM on August 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


>Yes, I agree, it's frightening isn't it. But that's how democracy is supposed to work. Everyone has the right to get involved in their own future. Even bad people, even heart-eaters. So YES I do want them to win. Sorry if that isn't convenient but in the real world you make compromises to get what you want. And I want a democratic Middle East and I have a personal stake in this.

So you would also advocate for the U.S.A. to overthrow the totalitarian regimes of the gulf states as well?

Also, you seem to be unaware the the U.S. government has, historically, been decidedly against democracy in the Middle East. In fact you seem to be pretty poorly informed all around so I don't know why anyone would take your musing on the Syria situation seriously.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:59 AM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm from a different country and I admit that I don't get NPR. Is it basically a government mouthpiece? Because I would have thought that anyone faced with "I saw evidence that the Syrians did something but I can't say what it is" would ask "The Syrians know what it is, and you know what it is, why can't Americans know what it is?"

NPR is not part of the government in a formal institutional sense, if that is your question. It isn't Voice of America. Some here may disagree, but I think the NPR brand is "radio that smart and well educated people listen to". I do like some NPR programs, but their primary news program in the morning and afternoon often enrages me. I have heard many military and US intelligence officials interviewed on NPR make the most outlandish assertions that go completely unchallenged. So I would say like all mainstream media in the USA, NPR acts as if they are a mouthpiece of the government. But NPR does it with a civil and faux even-handed tone which makes it seem a lot more highbrow than the scream fest over at Fox or the sychophant hour over at MSNBC. The propoganda is a lot easier to swollow when it is sweetened and shaped like a loveable cartoon character.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 7:39 AM on August 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


From the onion fpp:

Experts Point To Long, Glorious History Of Successful U.S. Bombing Campaigns
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:08 AM on August 29, 2013


Says The Onion after a long campaign of pushing for action on Syria (seriously what was with that?)

The reason I can't stand NPR News (not the other programming, which is a separate matter, of course) is precisely that reason - it allows the liberals to get propagandized while thinking they're all smart and shit, smarter than Fox and MSNBC viewers so they feel good about themselves, while still buying into the dominant mainstream ideology. Can't stand it.
posted by symbioid at 8:15 AM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


symbioid: "Says The Onion after a long campaign of pushing for action on Syria (seriously what was with that?)"

Um, The Onion is satire. Or used to be, until the satire started turning into reality.
posted by Big_B at 8:55 AM on August 29, 2013


No but they were really not doing satire or their satire was clearly crossing the line into a very sarcastic stance pushing for war. April 4th for example.
While tucking in his daughters as they settled into bed Tuesday evening, President Barack Obama reportedly kissed the two children gently on the forehead and reminded them that the lives of Syrian people are “worthless” and “completely insignificant.” “I love you two so much and Syrians are subhuman and don’t matter at all,” said the president, who is reported to have proudly smiled at his daughters while mentioning that the existences of all 22.5 million Syrian men, women, and children currently enduring a two-year-long civil war held no value or meaning whatsoever before shutting off the light in the girls’ bedroom. “Sweet dreams. And don’t ever think about the Syrian people—not even once. I don’t. All right, see you in the morning.” Sources confirmed the president briefly poked his head back into the room minutes later to watch his daughters’ peaceful slumber and to whisper that the gruesome eradication of an entire Syrian village in a chemical weapons attack would be wholly irrelevant and inconsequential.
Yes, it's satire, but it's clearly pushing a particular line here.

That was a few months ago - though now it looks like they've lightened up on it a bit.
posted by symbioid at 9:07 AM on August 29, 2013


I fail to see how "humanitarian bombing" where civilians will be killed is somehow the right response to the use of nerve agents.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:40 AM on August 29, 2013


No 10 accuses Ed Miliband of giving succour to Assad regime
posted by KokuRyu at 9:42 AM on August 29, 2013


That Cameron has, again, been seen to have lost control of the Commons, where unreliable coalition MPs – including Ukip-influenced Tories and squeamish Lib Dems – make him dependent on Labour votes for a majority, may be a domestic bonus for Miliband, but probably not. Voters do not much like the coalition, they voted for one but do not acknowledge paternity, and should be pleased at the parliamentary triangulation of the past 24 hours.

Chances are they won't be. Depending on what happens next, voters will do what they usually do and decide to blame someone else. The pre-war appeasement policies towards Hitler, followed by Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain were highly popular at the time, and the bellicose Churchill unpopular. When the policies failed voters blamed their leaders, not themselves. That could be Miliband's fate. "He was weak," they'll tell each other.

posted by KokuRyu at 9:43 AM on August 29, 2013


Yes, it's satire, but it's clearly pushing a particular line here.

Respectfully, I think you're reading something into the article that just isn't there.
posted by odinsdream at 10:01 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Missiles alone won’t solve the Syria crisis, or assuage our consciences - Bob Rae
posted by KokuRyu at 10:23 AM on August 29, 2013


Well, well. Russia has called an urgent meeting of the UN security council.
posted by de at 11:33 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Civil War Within Syria's Civil War: Armies of Kurdish women are taking on Syria's Islamists -- and winning.

Truly, the legend of Sniper Wolf was not baseless after all.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:45 AM on August 29, 2013


It has seemed inconsistent to me that China and Russia, both wanting to join the modern-world, should permanently sit on the UNSC and either not acknowledge the laws of the security council, or not be heard.

Right now, this moment frozen in time, has so much potential for diplomacy, if not peace.
posted by de at 11:46 AM on August 29, 2013


I am slightly heartened that there appear to be at least a few stumbling blocks in the way of the rush to launching the humanitarian missiles both in the UK and the USA.
posted by Justinian at 2:05 PM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


The House of Commons just voted down a resolution on military action!
posted by Justinian at 2:32 PM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Obama Is Willing to Go It Alone in Syria, Aides Say
posted by DynamiteToast at 2:32 PM on August 29, 2013


Government just lost a vote on their motion. It seems like the UK may not join the US in action in Syria. There may be another vote next week, however. Cameron is swearing right now that he will not take part in military action without winning a further vote.
posted by Thing at 2:33 PM on August 29, 2013


NYT says the yanks are going to all cowboy anyway.
posted by adamvasco at 2:34 PM on August 29, 2013


A bellicose Ankara seeks to push the West to strike Syria’s al-Assad hard enough to push it to the negotiating table with opposition militants
posted by KokuRyu at 2:40 PM on August 29, 2013


Obama Is Willing to Go It Alone in Syria, Aides Say

No. He won't. He'll wait on UNSC resolution.

Merkel will walk Putin through.
She wants to keep her job that badly.
posted by de at 2:44 PM on August 29, 2013


I think that the NYT story is just to keep Assad off balance and wishful thinking by the hawks. The odds of Obama deciding to attack seems pretty low at this point. The lack of support from Allies, the calendar I noted above, growing reservations in congress, all point to no attack.
posted by humanfont at 3:16 PM on August 29, 2013


Take a look at the world's top three.
Hopefully you're feeling less forlorn, dejah420.

Obama has asked the US to drop the gun.
The world is now asking Obama to do likewise.
If he can't see that there's something very wrong.
posted by de at 3:27 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, what really gets me is that Syria as a country, despite all of its flaws, really stepped up following the American invasion and occupation of Iraq, hosting at least a million Iraqi refugees. At one time, not so long ago, the country was stable and generous enough to host this large displaced population, and one wonders how much the American experiment of destabilizing Iraq has caused Syria's problems today.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:41 PM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Doesn't that give the world more reason to try to help solve the problems in Syria? To simply say any intervention in Syria is by definition making things worse seems possibly oversimplified and bogus. Castro's intervention in Angola perhaps ended colonialism in Africa and helped end Apartheid in South Africa. The intervention in Libya and Kosovo quite likely came out better than doing nothing. The interventions in Europe and the Pacific during WWII probably worked out better than doing nothing. Doing nothing in Darfur and East Timor and wherever didn't work out so well, and so on.
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:08 PM on August 29, 2013


Well, an intervention could come under the auspices of a UN mandate (unlikely), or perhaps persuading Russia and the US to stop supplying arms (unlikely). But as mentioned in many longwinded comments of mine above, I fail to see how cruise missiles are appropriate or effective "response."
posted by KokuRyu at 4:17 PM on August 29, 2013


I hadn't realized that Cameron was defeated on the first vote, which was merely an approval for a response, but not necessarily even military action. Wow. Burned. Also points out that there are a lot of people like me talking to their MP's!
posted by KokuRyu at 4:18 PM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Apparently this vote is historic, and may have significant repercussions for Britain.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:24 PM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


From that Guardian link -

This might be a good night to remember Robin Cook, whose gravestone carries the words: "I may not have succeeded in halting the war, but I did secure the right of parliament to decide on war."

It does indeed.

Someone should maybe wander out to the grave and pour him a libation!
posted by Flitcraft at 4:30 PM on August 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


KokuRyu, the head post of that linked article has some very interesting currents to watch flow from tonight's vote:

...

2. The "special relationship" has just become less special. One reasons links between Washington and London have generally been so close is that they could generally rely upon us in a fight. Now they can't. And that might be because ...

3. Britain is becoming less imperialist, and more European. This is probably the most important lesson to be learnt from tonight's vote. In the past prime ministers have justified interventionist policies on the grounds that Britain is an outward-looking power that gets involved in the world, that tends to gets "stuck in". This is normally explained as a legacy of our imperial past. But the public seem to have had enough. Any more wars? No thanks. We're turning German. And that affects what the government does because ...

4. Parliament matters more. Technically prime ministers do not need the support of the Commons to go to war. Sending troops into action is a prerogative power (meaning it can happen just on the prime minister's say so). But Tony Blair allowed a vote on the Iraq war, and since then parliament has been flexing its muscles even more. Of course having a hung parliament helps. But this might be a good night to remember Robin Cook, whose gravestone carries the words: "I may not have succeeded in halting the war, but I did secure the right of parliament to decide on war."

5. Ed Miliband has pulled off one of the most accomplished come-backs in recent political history. All summer he endured comments from the media, and Labour MPs, suggesting he should be doing a bit better. Now he has stopped a bombing campaign. Cameron lost the vote because he failed to persuade enough Tory MPs to support him, but Miliband pushed Cameron hard, and he deserves to take some credit for Cameron's defeat. It is fashionable to deride Miliband as ineffective, but now he can rightly say that he is the first Labour leader to pick fights with the both News International (over phone hacking) and the White House (over Syria) and win.

6. Cameron is not going to resign, but his authority is badly damaged. To be fair, Tory MPs who said they had doubts about Cameron's strategy in the debate did not criticise him in personal terms. But he has been pushing for a robust response to Syria, he decided to recall parliament and he opened the debate. For a prime minister to lose a vote on a major foreign policy issue like this is unprecedented in modern times. He is a weaker figure than he was a week ago.


My own thoughts are that this vote could change the course of UK foreign policy until 2020 and beyond. If Cameron is never strong enough to push for intervention during this government, and Miliband makes his name against opposing it, then the US may have nobody in the UK to cultivate as an ally. Longrun neglect could let the UK have space to rethink its position in the world: less Atlantic, more European. Not since Suez, maybe.
posted by Thing at 4:46 PM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Daily Mail was an interesting read... "The French hate Milliband now, and he'll never be able to form ties with the US Democratic Party."

Reports of Michael Gove (and his wife!)'s behaviour is also amusing.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:50 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh. {Surprised} We don't appear to have an empire any more.

{Thinks a while}

Probably a good thing. Empires are so over-rated and 20th century. Now we've agreed to stop doing this whole war thing, how about canceling Trident and redirecting those monies to libraries and education...?
posted by Wordshore at 5:02 PM on August 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


No-one ever said Westerners couldn't have a spring.
posted by de at 5:17 PM on August 29, 2013


I sure hope so.
posted by wuwei at 5:27 PM on August 29, 2013


It's strategically stupid, counterproductive and a poor substitute for basic, human, creative diplomacy, which might take longer and be less satisfying to the warmongers at home, but is 100% certain to be a better option than causing more chaos by dropping bombs on yet another country that hasn't attacked the United States.

Fucking well said, mediareport.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 5:28 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reports trickling out from the administration conference call with Obama advisors today suggest that no decision has been made. Congress was told that Obama hasn't decided what action to take, not were they given a timeline for a decision. In other news Jim VandeHei at Politico is a tool.
posted by humanfont at 6:16 PM on August 29, 2013


Please, people, if you haven't called your Senators and Representatives, and the White House, do so immediately.
posted by mediareport at 6:19 PM on August 29, 2013


Again, White House contact phone number: 202-456-1111. Find your senators. Find your House representatives.
posted by mediareport at 6:22 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Daily Mail was an interesting read... "The French hate Milliband now, and he'll never be able to form ties with the US Democratic Party."

Eh, I don't think even pro-intervention Democrats will care all that much. Even if you support the bombing it's easy to recognize getting involved is a shit sandwich, some folks just view it as one that has to be eaten. Loyalty to Obama isn't much of an issue either, once he is out of office nobody will really care about who slighted him on something like this.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:24 PM on August 29, 2013


From KokuRyu's "No 10 accuses Ed Miliband of giving succour to Assad regime" link:

A government source told the Times on Wednesday night: "No 10 and the Foreign Office think Miliband is a fucking cunt and a copper-bottomed shit."

Someone's been watching too much The Thick of It. So, so pleased with the British Parliament right now.
posted by mediareport at 6:30 PM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


This has been a great thread to read and I've learned so much - thanks to everyone who has been participating.

I'm wondering what people think about this comment on reddit and specifically this statement:
First of all, let me make something clear: No one in the United States government, not Barack Obama, not Chuck Hagel, not John Kerry, have any interest or intent in putting American troops in Syria. If we sent our troops to Syria it would be a complete disaster. We'd be fighting people on both sides, we wouldn't have any clear objectives, the people would hate us; it would be the stupidest international policy move of Obama's career, and he knows that. So that's not going to happen.

posted by triggerfinger at 7:14 PM on August 29, 2013


All I can say is, WTF is the Obama administration doing? One of the rationales for "humanitarian bombing" was because of the "red line" and to preserve American "credibility", but the result so far is a deep division in the 50-year-old "special relationship" between the US and Britain (and a perhaps fatal weakening of Cameron's hold on his party), and what looks like a bunch of waffling on the part of Obama about what to do.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:18 PM on August 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Maybe Obama thought it was the back down America had to have.
Removing that "red line" incentive is one way to mitigate the risk of chemical warfare.
posted by de at 7:19 PM on August 29, 2013


Good for Great Britain!
posted by Renoroc at 8:03 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


A while back my brother in law and his son got into about the end of the American Empire. They were stuck on the idea of who would ever have the power to "take over" the US. Mostly they were stuck because of fathers and sons, but eventually I offered that "taking over" was the wrong metric and what the coming decades would look like is a gradual thinning of American influence. It would become more and more difficult for the United States to set the terms and bring others along on its adventures.

Iraq and Afghanistan exposed the limits of American hard power at the cost of lots of its soft power (in addition to the usual costs of war). Obama got some of that influence back, but over the past few years and months we've seen it erode because of Snowden, Libya, the heavy handedness of the drone war.

And now this. Obama allowed some hawks to walk him into a corner, and the context of the above makes it quite narrow. If missiles were to be fired, they should have been fired Tuesday, before everybody had a chance to reconsider. Now that nations are reconsidering, and deciding against missile strikes, the limits of American influence come into view. How does the United States get out of this without losing more credibility; backing down from the threat shows weakness (and worse, incompetence). Following through, alone, leaves the United States a rogue.

What are the options for a declining (yet still awesome) power that finds itself in such a box?
posted by notyou at 8:20 PM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


What are the options for a declining (yet still awesome) power that finds itself in such a box?

a) Hiss
b) Purr
posted by Sys Rq at 8:25 PM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a lot of American Facebook friends, and so far none of them have mentioned Cameron's defeat, (although there is lots of scepticism regarding President Obama). I wonder if it is even on their radar.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:44 PM on August 29, 2013


Reports trickling out from the administration conference call with Obama advisors today suggest that no decision has been made. Congress was told that Obama hasn't decided what action to take, nor were they given a timeline for a decision.

Remember what Bush's Chief of Staff Andrew Card said about their campaign to sell the Iraq War to the public back in 2002 "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce a new product in August."

So wait a few weeks for vacation season to end and the new television season to begin.
posted by JackFlash at 8:58 PM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is a really good article by Micheal Cohen published on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq mess. It's a good read to frame how an American should look at the decisions being made right now. It's more in tune with boots on the ground questions, but the reality is any time you involve yourself militarily in a situation like this it's hard to predict what kind of outcome it could lead to.

In the United States, after Vietnam, while there was perhaps not an explicit recognition of defeat, there was an understanding that steps must be taken to avoid such a calamitous and ill-advised conflict in the future. That belief became the impetus for the so-called Weinberger Doctrine, which established clear criteria for the use of force: a vital national interest must be at stake; wars should be fought wholeheartedly; political and military objectives must be clear; those objectives and the size of the force engaged much be constantly reassessed and adjusted; the support of Congress and the American people is paramount; and, finally, force must be the last resort. Colin Powell later expanded on these tests with the inclusion of overwhelming military force and full consideration of the consequences of military action.
-
During the Afghan surge debate in 2009, former British Army officer Rory Stewart recounted his experience meeting with U.S. officials about the decision to send more troops to Afghanistan: "‘It's like they're coming in and saying to you, I'm going to drive my car off a cliff. Should I or should I not wear a seatbelt?' And you say, 'I don't think you should drive your car off the cliff.' And they say, 'No, no, that bit's already been decided -- the question is whether to wear a seatbelt.'" The problem on both Iraq and Afghanistan was that the decision to use force was made before the United States even figured out what it wanted or could accomplish -- and that useful criteria for thinking about the use of American military power were ignored.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:25 PM on August 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


Europe warns Assad against attacking Israel
Syrian President Bashar Assad has been warned against attacking Israel in case of a strike on his country, senior officials in the European Union told Kuwait's al-Rai newspaper.

According to the officials, Assad realizes that a potential Western assault would be a response to his army's use of chemical weapons and not as a means to affect the current balance of power in Syria.
Interesting for three things. Firstly, look at the back-channel assurances that are being made: "if we do attack you, we're not going to try to depose you. Secondly, look at who is making them and how they're doing it: it's the EU, and they're going to a newspaper in a somewhat-neutral Arab country, to make sure that their statement is publicised and plausible. Lastly, they imply that the deal is off the table if Assad widens the conflict by attacking Israel, the way Saddam tried to. So the message here is that if there is an attack it will be a limited one, presumably as a show of determination: "we bombed his chemical stores to teach him that this horrible event must never recur!"

Of course, they don't say that the USA has agreed to the deal ...
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:34 PM on August 29, 2013


A second senator has said that the President does not have the authority to attack a foreign country without Congress' authority:
I was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee for 17 years. I teach separation of powers in Constitutional law. This is something I know. So I brought a group of Constitutional scholars together to write a piece that I'm going to deliver to the whole United States Senate pointing out that the president HAS NO CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY to take this country to war against a country of 70 million people unless we're attacked or unless there is proof that we are about to be attacked. And if he does, I would move to impeach him.
Yes, that was Joe Biden. Six years ago. (via Conor Friedersdorf, who is great)
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:59 PM on August 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


It didn't stop them in Libya and won't stop them here if they want to go forward.

ABC
: Mr. President, in the case of military operations in Libya you stated that authorization from Congress was not required because our military was not engaged in “hostilities.” In addition, an April 1, 2011, memorandum to you from your Office of Legal Counsel concluded:

“… President Obama could rely on his constitutional power to safeguard the national interest by directing the anticipated military operations in Libya –which were limited in their nature, scope, and duration — without prior congressional authorization.”

We view the precedent this opinion sets, where “national interest” is enough to engage in hostilities without congressional authorization, as unconstitutional. If the use of 221 Tomahawk cruise missiles, 704 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, and 42 Predator Hellfire missiles expended in Libya does not constitute “hostilities,” what does?

posted by Drinky Die at 11:30 PM on August 29, 2013


You don't understand, Joe in Australia. That was when Bush was in office. This is totally different because reasons.
posted by Justinian at 11:41 PM on August 29, 2013


^triggerfinger the initial introduction as to why there is civil war in Syria is much too trite.
About.com does a pretty good job of explaining the history and the circumstances for the present situation.
posted by adamvasco at 2:42 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Return of the Dodgy Dossier: The case for bombing Syria is unraveling
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:53 AM on August 30, 2013


I like how Obama is taking his time and waiting for facts go emerge, rather than charging in. It is like he understands that this isn't a game and that human lives are on the line.
posted by humanfont at 5:51 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


"we bombed his chemical stores to teach him that this horrible event must never recur!"

Just as a reminder, the NYT reported earlier this week the USA wouldn't be bombing Assad's chemical stores, which would spread chemical weapons and be an environmental catastrophe, but rather would be bombing "command and control centers as well as a variety of conventional military targets."

We're not talking about bombing isolated buildings full of drums of nasty chemicals. That's not even on the table. We're talking about bombing military headquarters and units of soldiers somehow believed to be particularly worth killing over what happened.
posted by mediareport at 5:57 AM on August 30, 2013


Obama May Get France as Ally in Syria Fight After U.K. Balks

Also: Syria: Napalm-Like Burns After School Attack
posted by rosswald at 7:24 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a new thread about Syria that doesn't (yet) have 400+ comments.
posted by mediareport at 7:53 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


But does it have Miley Cyrus?
posted by Justinian at 9:27 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


but rather would be bombing "command and control centers as well as a variety of conventional military targets."

We aren't going to bomb the chemical weapons, we'll bomb the people responsible for controlling them - to teach them a lesson. This way the weapons systems will be left unprotected and fully intact for Al Qaeda's use.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:42 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


A Poem for Hoping Against War
posted by homunculus at 9:48 AM on August 30, 2013


I thought that chemical weapons were volatile, by design. You don't want them hanging around and poisoning your own troops. So would bombing the stores really be much of a problem? The worth that can happen is that personnel near those sites get killed by super-massive doses and the area is unsafe for some period of time.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:43 AM on August 31, 2013


So, the British intelligence (Aug 29) [pdf] believes there were at least 350 fatalities:
Unlike previous attacks, the degree of open source reporting of CW use on 21 August has been considerable. As a result, there is little serious dispute that chemical attacks causing mass casualties on a larger scale than hitherto (including, we judge, at least 350 fatalities) took place.
Was someone tipped off for the open source reporting to be considerable?

The US intelligence has determined that 1,429 people were killed in the attack, including at least 426 children. Large discrepancy.
American intelligence agencies had indications three days beforehand that the Syrian regime was poised to launch a lethal chemical attack that killed more than a thousand people and has set the stage for a possible U.S. military strike on Syria.
How convenient. What if some future whistle blowing reveals that the US gave forewarning of this massacre to open source reporters. Would that be another moral atrocity for UNSC's consideration?

Or does the UNSC not sit in judgement of France, Britain, the US, China and Russia: neither their war crimes nor their moral atrocities. Impunity.

The UNSC needs modernising.
posted by de at 3:04 AM on August 31, 2013


Most informative webpage on possible Syrian attack on Israel (via)

Note:
"כבר תקפו"? means "Have they attacked yet?"
"לא" means "no".
Let's hope we don't see "כן".
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:15 AM on August 31, 2013


Looks like the President will seek authorization from the US congress before striking Syria, even though he is certain it is the right thing to do, so I guess the thing for people like me to do is to write our elected representatives.

I think Obama did the right thing here, even though a potential 2 week delay will definitely lead to more Syrian deaths. We are a constitutional democracy after all and the USA faces no risk from Syria.
posted by Renoroc at 12:14 PM on August 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Was someone tipped off for the open source reporting to be considerable?

Isn't "open source reporting" just referring to all of the Youtube uploads of video clips showing the dead and injured? As that report later says:
Extensive video footage attributed to the attack in eastern Damascus (which we assess would be very difficult to falsify) is consistent with the use of a nerve agent, such as sarin, and is not consistent with the use of blister or riot control agents.
Video recording devices are as inexpensive and ubiquitous in Syria as they are everywhere else in the 21st century, so no one would need to be tipped off for an event resulting in thousands of casualties to be widely and verifiably reported, I wouldn't think.
posted by XMLicious at 12:43 PM on August 31, 2013


Isn't "open source reporting" just referring to all of the Youtube uploads of video clips

I'd say so, but there have been other incidents of chemical weapon attacks in Syria that have not had the considerable coverage.

If the US had 3 days advanced knowledge of an event, and were collecting intelligence and evidence with a view to justifying military intervention, it's a big ask to not believe reporters were organised in advance as part of the information gathering.

China and Russia have vetoed UNSC's authority to intervene three times, well prior to 21 August. It's not like the call for intervention erupted only 10 days ago.
posted by de at 1:35 PM on August 31, 2013


Hmm... that's a good point, but it seems equally feasible to me that an attack with, say, a dozen times as many casualties would result in a dozen times as much evidence and coverage, or would leave details that can provide greater certainty as to which side carried out the attack.
posted by XMLicious at 9:28 PM on August 31, 2013


First responders were carrying scissors, syringes, specimen bags, and vials, too, it seems. This incident saw hair and blood samples uploaded to US forensic labs.

"DYB DYB DYB DOB DOB DOB" ... except 1400 people could have been saved. Someone was as keen as mustard for evidence, and less outraged by atrocity than he's letting on. Not very nice.
posted by de at 9:46 AM on September 1, 2013


First responders were carrying scissors, syringes, specimen bags, and vials, too, it seems.

But first responders like EMTs normally carry that sort of stuff in most of the world, don't they? I would think that goes doubly for even non-emergency-responder people in a war zone, and like you yourself just said this wasn't the first incident of a chemical weapons attack: I would think that just like how in the U.S. envelopes of anthrax or school shooters or bombs made from pressure cookers being in the news prompts many to think about what they'd do if they personally encountered the same thing, people are likewise thinking about chemical weapons in Syria, except that the effect is even more pronounced because of how real and present the threat is.

It's not that I don't think the attack could have been staged, it just seems to me that the things you're pointing to would likely be present anyways in a chemical weapons attack in a modern and relatively wealthy country like Syria that's also on a war footing. (I mean, not wealthy relative to other richer Middle Eastern petro-states, but according to Wikipedia it has a substantially higher per capita GDP than Vietnam - nothing like Haiti or Rwanda or even North Korea, that you would expect people in a city of millions to not have scissors and syringes.)
posted by XMLicious at 12:01 PM on September 1, 2013


Sorry XMLicious, I don't think for a minute the attack has been staged. I don't ever want to learn that. At this point I can't help but believe it was allowed go ahead, observed, without any attempt to intervene. I find that a Western atrocity. For all I know the whole thing was observed from the Situation Room. It's possible if not probable. We are talking the USA. That would make the initial failed rhetoric -- around moral indignation -- as totally unforgiveable as it was unconvincing.

First respondents are an irrelevance, really. To me the people nearest-by or still on their feet locally are first respondents, and the least likely to be wandering around equipped with syringes and scissors and appropriate specimen bags and markers in the middle of the night (especially for Obama's purposes); they're not the organised emergency crews who arrive in a second wave of assistance who most definitely do come suitably equipped ... so we don't really know who these first respondents were. Nonetheless specimens left that scene and made their way to Washington, not YouTube -- Washington. Properly transported. Do you really think Syrian emergency crews would post off or hand over crime scene specimens to the US? Why?

The US holds a permanent seat on the UNSC and knows only too well a (war) crime scene needs proper cordoning and scrutiny for anything to be considered evidence.

1 September: Syria: samples collected at site of alleged chemical weapons use to be sent to labs tomorrow – UN
[T]he UN mission is “uniquely capable of establishing, in an impartial and credible manner, the facts of any use of chemical weapons based directly on evidence collected on the ground.”

Two Syrian Government officials have been observing the process, as per Mr. Ban's guidelines for the procedure, and in strictly in adherence with the established standards for verification set up by the OPCW.
I doubt US samples and analyses will be regarded internationally as admissible evidence. Kerry's latest we-have-evidence rhetoric -- verging on shaming -- is incriminating and contemptible of other nations and not growing the (UNSC) case at all. The US is as petulant and as full of conflicting interests as Russia (and China). The US does not have admissible evidence and. Kerry. knows it.

There's a hideous Human Rights Council report, out June 3, 2013 "Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic*" On my reading paragraphs 139 & 140 under the heading D. Illegal Weapons inform Obama's latest mission:
139. Allegations have been received concerning the use of chemical weapons by both parties. The majority concern their use by Government forces. In four attacks – on Khan Al-Asal, Aleppo, 19 March; Uteibah, Damascus, 19 March; Sheikh Maqsood neighbourhood, Aleppo, 13 April; and Saraqib, Idlib, 29 April – there are reasonable grounds to believe that limited quantities of toxic chemicals were used. It has not been possible, on the evidence available, to determine the precise chemical agents used, their delivery systems or the perpetrator. Other incidents also remain under investigation.

140. Conclusive findings – particularly in the absence of a large-scale attack – may be
reached only after testing samples taken directly from victims or the site of the alleged
attack. It is, therefore, of utmost importance that the Panel of Experts, led by Professor
Sellström and assembled under the Secretary General's Mechanism for Investigation of
Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons, is granted full access to Syria.

In my view the US intended to act alone all along, gathering its own requirements, judge and jury, to wage its own war, for its own reasons, regardless of UNSC and its associated difficulties, and here we all are again, a coalition of the (un)willing only this time we're all forced to watch; let's do this thing. The US wants the nod?

No! The current roll out of US rhetoric is terrifying. Chilling. Lets wait on the UNSC and the whistle blowers because what's going on is not a response to a moral atrocity that occurred on August 21. That incident is not even the straw that broke the camel's back. (It was quietly observed.) The UNSC has clipped the eagle's wings long enough. The US has been lying in wait for how long? (More than 3 days, that's for sure.)
posted by de at 4:12 PM on September 1, 2013


It's a slam dunk.
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:15 PM on September 1, 2013


It's possible if not probable. We are talking the USA. That would make the initial failed rhetoric -- around moral indignation -- as totally unforgiveable as it was unconvincing.

It's really awesome you assert something terrible is probable with no evidence for it beyond "I don't like the USA."
posted by Justinian at 4:42 PM on September 1, 2013


If the USA really did know about a planned chemical weapons attack three days in advance (which is weird enough in itself) then it had a moral duty to warn people about it. Why didn't this happen?
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:47 PM on September 1, 2013


But... if someone was tipped off so that they could arrange for considerable coverage of the event and bring scissors and syringes, doesn't that literally mean that the U.S. did warn at least some Syrians of the attack ahead of time? So not just a Western atrocity, but a conspiracy between Western powers and some element of the resistance or other local group to ensure the success of an attack by the government forces. And they had volunteers who were willing to expose themselves to a chemical weapons attack so as to immediately collect evidence and video footage while they watched hundreds of their countrymen die around them.

I certainly wouldn't put it past the U.S. government or even Obama in particular to allow an actionable attack to occur and supply a casus belli, as he seems quite willing to stretch the approach of "choosing the lesser evil", this just seems a bit contradictory and not so much of a smoking gun for the underlying explanation you're putting forward and asserting as probable, de. It seems like it would be much easier to wait for a chemical attack to occur and then just manufacture evidence like we did for Iraq.
posted by XMLicious at 7:20 PM on September 1, 2013


"In the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack," said a U.S. intelligence report the Obama administration released Friday.

"Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21," the report added.


Just because the U.S. is collecting signals intelligence doesn't mean they are analyzing it in real-time. Is there evidence that the administration knew with confidence that a chemical weapons attack was being prepared three days ahead of time, or just that they have signals intelligence showing it being prepared? It seems to me highly probably that Syria's military could have been moving possible chemical weapons around fairly often, and they have been regularly firing conventional artillery into Damascus suburbs. Maybe US "intelligence" didn't piece everything together very well until after the attack had occurred.
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:57 PM on September 1, 2013


XMLicious, I have heard Kerry again and he says "We have hair and blood from the first responders" then clarifies. The US has the hair and blood of the first responders. It's still interesting to think about who knows who and who's on the ground to get specimens out of there.

Golden Eternity, no. The assessment mainly refers to the events of August 21, the day CWs were used. August 18 is only mentioned once under the heading 'Preparation'. It's the date launch-site CW preparation (and/or its surveillance) commenced. Like use, preparation of CWs is outlawed.

The assessment states that Syria had been under surveillance for a year so surveillance supposedly commenced around the time Obama delivered his red line caution, August 20, 2012:
We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.
Obama had cautioned against both preparation and use, but acted on the use.

Looks like Obama gave up on any UNSC mandate at least a year back and (maybe) needed evidence of use and a coalition of willing before he could take action.

I was interested to read a 20 member team of UN inspectors arrived in Damascus August 19. Pity they're never given the keys to the city.
posted by de at 7:37 PM on September 2, 2013


Remember what Bush's Chief of Staff Andrew Card said about their campaign to sell the Iraq War to the public back in 2002 "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce a new product in August."

Its not like he timed Assad's gas attack. I'm opposed to military action here, but I get what's behind this--the "never again" liberal folks who thought we should have sent in a division to Rwanda and all of that.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:57 AM on September 3, 2013


Looks like Obama gave up on any UNSC mandate at least a year back and (maybe) needed evidence of use and a coalition of willing before he could take action.

China and Russia would veto any Security Council resolution.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:58 AM on September 3, 2013


But... if someone was tipped off so that they could arrange for considerable coverage of the event and bring scissors and syringes, doesn't that literally mean that the U.S. did warn at least some Syrians of the attack ahead of time?

So, nobody's discussing the obvious? That the UN has the samples from its investigation and shared the results with the US? Instead, there's this whole conspiracy thing again?
posted by Ironmouth at 12:01 PM on September 3, 2013


No conspiracy, Ironmouth. The US makes no secret of doing surveillance. I'm curious who lives amid the violence for a living. And the UN haven't handed over a thing. Their highly escorted booty was only being opened -- under scrutiny -- yesterday. No assays yet.

'Conspiracy'. pffft

China and Russia would veto.
Of course ... that's been the problem.
posted by de at 12:17 PM on September 3, 2013


de's suggestion that the video coverage of the event would require somebody to be tipped off ahead of time was made up above based upon a British intelligence announcement from August 29th, so unless time travel is also involved in your theory about the UN, Ironmouth, it isn't an obvious explanation for what's being proposed.
posted by XMLicious at 12:47 PM on September 3, 2013


No conspiracy, Ironmouth. The US makes no secret of doing surveillance.

The implication discussed above was that somehow we got scissors and syringes there early and were ready to go. This isn't from surveillance--its from the UN team. Surveillance doesn't get you physical samples.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:01 PM on September 3, 2013


Gee, Code Pink shows up and yells "Nobody wants this war!" Thereby increasing the chances it gets voted for. Well done.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:08 PM on September 3, 2013


Surveillance sure as heck gets their people on the ground in there to collect. The US samples have not come from the UN inspectors. There'll be hell to pay if that's the case.


Ban Ki-moon   insisted that the bitterly divided major powers on the UN Security Council have a "collective responsibility to humankind" to unite and halt the use of chemical weapons.

President Vladimir Putin   hopes to send a delegation of Russian lawmakers to the United States to discuss the situation in Syria with members of Congress


China was highly concerned about any use of chemical weapons.

But he said China opposed the U.S. acting alone and believed any response must conform to the U.N. Charter and the basic principles underlying international relations.
posted by de at 1:09 PM on September 3, 2013


Kerry's in there calling Assad a tyrant and Russia and China enablers. I'd love to be a fly on the wall when France, the UK, the US, Russia and China get together. The 5 permanent seats need tasering ... just a little punitive strike at assets, get the conversation flowing.
posted by de at 1:17 PM on September 3, 2013


During the Afghan surge debate in 2009, former British Army officer Rory Stewart recounted his experience meeting with U.S. officials about the decision to send more troops to Afghanistan: "‘It's like they're coming in and saying to you, I'm going to drive my car off a cliff. Should I or should I not wear a seatbelt?' And you say, 'I don't think you should drive your car off the cliff.' And they say, 'No, no, that bit's already been decided -- the question is whether to wear a seatbelt.'" The problem on both Iraq and Afghanistan was that the decision to use force was made before the United States even figured out what it wanted or could accomplish -- and that useful criteria for thinking about the use of American military power were ignored.

America: A Brief Parable
posted by homunculus at 5:03 PM on September 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


you don't introduce a new product in August.

Bombing the shit out of some far away country from 30,000 feet while claiming your troops are brave defenders of freedom is not a new product for the USA.
posted by colie at 12:42 PM on September 4, 2013


New packaging, new application, it's marketable.
The US spruiks its new product.
posted by de at 11:08 AM on September 5, 2013


I'm not buying it.
posted by clavdivs at 11:55 AM on September 8, 2013


When asked by a reporter whether there was anything Assad's government could do or offer to stop any attack, Mr Kerry said:

"Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week - turn it over, all of it without delay and allow the full and total accounting (of it) but he isn't about to do it and it can't be done."



And Putin put the proposition to Assad and Assad said OK.
Now what?
posted by de at 8:48 AM on September 9, 2013


When asked by a reporter whether there was anything Assad's government could do or offer to stop any attack, Mr Kerry said:

"Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week - turn it over, all of it without delay and allow the full and total accounting (of it) but he isn't about to do it and it can't be done."


And Putin put the proposition to Assad and Assad said OK.
Now what?


Obama wins, McCain angrily denounces taking away Assad's chemical weapons. I do hope they turn over those weapons ASAP.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:21 AM on September 9, 2013


> Obama wins

Military might and winning ... shocking filters.
There's a whole lot more to life than winning.

Syria's ready to sign up to the CWC, too.
posted by de at 9:34 AM on September 9, 2013


If the CW get handed over and etc, what started out as a smashing defeat for the President becomes a smashing victory. Couple it with his decision to seek bombing authority from Congress, thereby rejiggering, however slightly, the balance of war-making power back a bit toward Congress, and hey, maybe there's something to all the 11th dimensional chess stuff.

Big IF, of course.

Also, one wonders what Putin got in the exchange.
posted by notyou at 9:34 AM on September 9, 2013


> Also, one wonders what Putin got in the exchange.

Some accolade as the better diplomat from a perspective I've just watched. Sorry, wasn't astute enough to take the speaker's details ... some analyst who thinks this was not prearranged between Obama/Kerry and Putin/Lavrov.

Syria's compliance is welcome news.
posted by de at 9:42 AM on September 9, 2013


I couldn't believe what my eyes were seeing in this thread until I went and read it for myself:

Give up weapons, Russia urges Syria, BBC, 9 September 2013

Syria 'Welcomes' Russian Call to Give Up Chemical Weapons, James Marson and Nicholas Winning, The Wall Street Journal, 9 September 2013
Mr. Moallem didn't provide any specifics, other than to say that Syria welcomed the Russian proposal.

"The Syrian Arab republic welcomes the Russian initiative, motivated by the concerns of the Russian leadership for the lives of our citizens and the security of our country," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem told reporters in Moscow, according to Russia's Interfax news agency.

He said Syria agreed to the proposal "out of our faith in the wisdom of the Russian leadership, which is striving to prevent American aggression against our people."

I'm not sure it's a win for the President. House Republicans weren't going to vote for a punitive strike anyway. They'll waste no time in roasting him over the coals for "losing face to Russia." Despite the fact that Sec. Kerry originally suggested the surrender of the weapons — he must have been reading my posts here — although his staff walked it back almost immediately. This whole thing has been a disaster and has made me question the competence of just about everyone involved.

It's interesting though that the Assad regime has apparently agreed, at least in principle, to surrender the weapons solely to avoid a missile attack. He's still in a fight for his life. I thought he'd hold out for exile as a way to end his days in peace.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:02 AM on September 9, 2013


Syria welcomes proposal on chemical weapons:

"The possibility for a political solution remains," [Lavrov] said, emphasising that Moallem had assured him at the talks in Moscow that Syria was still "ready for peace talks".

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said he too welcomed Russia's proposals and called for the creation of UN-supervised zones in Syria where chemical weapons could be destroyed.

posted by de at 10:03 AM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


This whole thing has been a disaster and has made me question the competence of just about everyone involved.

So true. From Obama backing himself into a corner to Kerry's attempt last week to spread the distortion that the secular Syrian opposition is "getting stronger by the day" to the blurted-out "give up chemical weapons in a week" to the "now we have to bomb Syria or Obama's going to be weak domestically" atrocity of an argument, this has been one of the most disappointing clownshows of foreign relations we've seen in years.
posted by mediareport at 10:21 AM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


... this has been one of the most disappointing clownshows of foreign relations we've seen in years.

With potentially the best outcome in years.
Funny thing that. How can anyone be dis-appointed?
posted by de at 10:27 AM on September 9, 2013


Obama wins,

Because this is the most important thing here...making sure that Obama "wins."
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:29 AM on September 9, 2013


de: “... this has been one of the most disappointing clownshows of foreign relations we've seen in years.

With potentially the best outcome in years.
Funny thing that. How can anyone be dis-appointed?”
Disappointed in the people, not the outcome. Because we'd really like to believe it's The West Wing instead of Dr. Strangelove.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:32 AM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure it's a win for the President.

Relative to the bind he has spent the last few weeks bumbling himself into (strafing Syria absent the UN, the Congress, everybody but France and some American hawks with no apparent goal)?

This out lets him skip all that and claim he got Syria to relinquish its CW, join the CW treaty, and that he consulted Congress before ordering an attack.
posted by notyou at 10:58 AM on September 9, 2013


This whole thing has been a disaster and has made me question the competence of just about everyone involved.

No disagreement there.
posted by notyou at 10:59 AM on September 9, 2013


With potentially the best outcome in years.

Well, let's see what happens. Obama's people have been working on classified briefings to show to Congress, starting tonight and continuing this week. We won't get to know what's in them, of course, but if it's anything like what Kerry tried to pull with the NEW IMPROVED Syrian opposition last week, it's a good bet the bullshit will be thick. At this point, it's a dick-measuring contest between Obama and Putin as much as anything, and that should horrify anyone.

We can only hope Mr. Nobel Peace Prize puts his dick back in his pants first.
posted by mediareport at 11:01 AM on September 9, 2013


It's interesting though that the Assad regime has apparently agreed, at least in principle, to surrender the weapons solely to avoid a missile attack. He's still in a fight for his life. I thought he'd hold out for exile as a way to end his days in peace.

I hope this works. I think a strike is a bad idea, but if one of the biggest holders of chemical weapons in the world hands over their arsenal without a shot being fired, that would be excellent.

In the end, it isn't in our interest to hit Assad's chemical munitions capability, and I doubt we can get much of their delivery systems either. I totally don't agree with assessments I've seen that we are going to land troops or the like, or that the strikes will kill tens of thousands of people, or that the rebels somehow launched a sarin gas strike on civilians which would destroy their credibility with the Syrian people. We just shouldn't do this.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:04 AM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


With potentially the best outcome in years.

There are no 'outcomes' for people, only states.
posted by colie at 11:26 AM on September 9, 2013


And Putin put the proposition to Assad and Assad said OK.

"Dude, I know, it sucks. Sometimes you gotta gas some of your own people to stick it to Islamist rebels. Been there, done that. But the Americans fear Russia, so I can get away with it. They do not fear Syria. You should do what they say."
posted by Sys Rq at 11:30 AM on September 9, 2013


it isn't in our interest to hit Assad's chemical munitions capability

Ironmouth, fairly early on in the runup to bombing the NYT reported that Obama's missile attacks wouldn't hit Assad's "chemical munitions capability" but rather air bases and other conventional military targets:

The attacks, which are expected to involve scores of Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from American destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, would not be focused on chemical weapons storage sites, which would risk an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe and could open up the sites to raids by militants, officials said.

The strikes would instead be aimed at military units that have carried out chemical attacks, the headquarters overseeing the effort and the rockets and artillery that have launched the attacks, according to the options being reviewed within the administration. An American official said that the initial target lists included fewer than 50 sites, including air bases where Syria’s Russian-made attack helicopters are deployed. The list includes command and control centers as well as a variety of conventional military targets.


Just want to keep that clear; there's nothing about bombing chemical weapons factories or chemical stockpiles in the reports of the planned attack.
posted by mediareport at 11:39 AM on September 9, 2013


I thought he'd hold out for exile as a way to end his days in peace

Turns out that's less of an option for dictators than it used to be, ob1quixote. During the Mubarak protests, Foreign Policy's Scott Horton wrote about the increasingly aggressive legal and financial wrangling against former dictators in this piece, "Exile Ain't What It Used To Be," which notes "over the last 30 years, things have gotten increasingly difficult for dictators in flight."

The NYT reported a similar situation for Latin American ex-dictators back in 2007:

A tranquil death in a foreign land, at the age of 81: such a bookend to a life of brutality or corruption was long guaranteed for Latin America’s exiled strongmen. Until now. The tradition of guaranteed asylum for fallen leaders is, in fact, coming under siege throughout the region, and the surprising extradition of Alberto K. Fujimori last month to Peru from Chile could turn out to be a turning point.
posted by mediareport at 11:41 AM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


It looks like Susan Rice is determined to reprise the Condi Rice role (via):
Rice makes the credibility argument:

"Failing to respond could indicate that the United States is not prepared to use all the tools necessary to keep our nation secure... [it] would raise questions around the world as to whether the United States is truly prepared to use the full range of its power."

"Other global hotspots might flare up," she says.

"Most disturbingly, it would send a perverse message to those who seek to use the world's worse weapons, that you can use these weapons blatantly and just get away with it," Rice says.

Rice says that diplomatic efforts have been exhausted:

"We and others have already exhausted a host of other measures aimed at changing Assad's calculus... these efforts have not succeeded."

Rice is starting to sound downright Cheney-esque. She says Assad gassing east Ghouta could "threaten our soldiers in the region and even potentially our citizens at home." (emphasis added)

New America Foundation president Anne-Marie Slaughter introduces Rice. She begins. Rice says it's in the US interest to conduct "limited" strikes against the Assad regime.

She said the chemical attacks in Syria are a "serious threat to our national security." (emphasis added)

She says she'll explain why "it is in our national interest to take limited military action to [deter] future use" of chemical weapons.

Here's a Rumsfeld-esque phrase: "Opening a door to their use anywhere threatens the United States and our personnel everywhere."
An LGM commenter nails it with "We wouldn’t want the smoking gun to be a sarin cloud!"
posted by tonycpsu at 1:16 PM on September 9, 2013


Rice says that diplomatic efforts have been exhausted

Jesus fuck. Obama and Kerry are totally gung-ho for this cruise missile attack, aren't they? I freely admit I wasn't following Syria very closely before the sarin gas attack (which we still don't know much about because the UN hasn't finished its investigation, which Obama has declared irrelevant for some idiotic reason), but what exactly was the massive diplomatic push Susan Rice was making before August 2013?

Did I miss it somehow? And if there wasn't a massive diplomatic push Susan Rice was making before rushing to insist that the only viable option is cruise missiles aimed at command centers, why the fuck not?

Just watch the furious rhetoric, lies and distortions over the next few days. Anyone who insists there are no similarities to Cheney and Rumsfeld during the Iraq invasion push is deluding her- or himself; this is *exactly* what we saw then. A rush to a military option and a hand-wavey dismissal of both the United Nations and diplomacy in general. Congrats, Obama supporters. You've become the Tea Party.

Except most of them are probably against this particular bullshit.
posted by mediareport at 2:32 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, Tea Party leaders/standard bearers (Michelle Bachman, Louie Gohmert) are off in Egypt praising the military dictatorship and comparing them to George Washington and such, actually, while the news I'm reading makes it sound like this whole affair is on its way to drawing to a close, with things coming out better than before.
posted by raysmj at 2:48 PM on September 9, 2013


I hope you are right. I'll just mention again that one of the easiest, best things any US citizen can do right now is call their Senator, House Representative and the White House *tomorrow morning* and say you are intrigued by the idea of continued diplomacy and vehemently opposed to any unilateral US cruise missile strike.

Find your Representative.
Find your Senator.
Call the White House.
posted by mediareport at 3:18 PM on September 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Isn't the administration correct that the only reason Syria has an incentive to engage in the current diplomatic overture is the credible threat of American military intervention? There is no carrot without a big stick. Which makes me uncomfortable since Syria voluntarily giving up its stockpiles would be a wonderful results... but one which would not have occurred without the threat of the very strikes that I (and much of Metafilter) vehemently oppose.

Does that mean the administration was right? I don't necessarily think so. They've obviously been caught flat-footed here and are as surprised as anyone.
posted by Justinian at 5:09 PM on September 9, 2013


So much goes on behind the scenes. I figured the big push was being made in hopes of forcing the Syria and chemical weapons issue after yet another attack. And I figure that some domestic politics figured into this as well (showing the GOP confusion, before budget talks, in which GOP leaders would argue that defense cuts were off the table, yet again).
posted by raysmj at 5:43 PM on September 9, 2013


Christ, I'm actually moving towards the position that Congress should authorize military force because I think it makes the use of force less likely as Syria gives up its weapons voluntarily. That's essentially classic "si vis pacem, para bellum" thinking and I hate it.

But the worst case scenario at this point is, to me, Obama going ahead with strikes even if Congress doesn't approve it. Almost anything would be better than that.
posted by Justinian at 6:18 PM on September 9, 2013


(I hate that I'm being forced to move in this direction I mean, si vis pacem, para bellum is just a realistic worldview which I regret but do not hate.)
posted by Justinian at 6:19 PM on September 9, 2013


Today's Christian Science Monitor has a piece entitled No kidding: Read The Onion if you want to understand Syria, adding another voice to Big_B's (and others') above assertions that satire and reality are perhaps unprecedentedly difficult to distinguish from each other in this situation.
posted by gubenuj at 7:09 PM on September 9, 2013


From McClatchy's DC bureau, an article that problematizes the Obama push for war:

Intercepts caught Assad rejecting requests to use chemical weapons, German paper says

Syrian President Bashar Assad has repeatedly rejected requests from his field commanders for approval to use chemical weapons, according to a report this weekend in a German newspaper. The report in Bild am Sonntag, which is a widely read and influential national Sunday newspaper, reported that the head of the German Foreign Intelligence agency, Gerhard Schindler, last week told a select group of German lawmakers that intercepted communications had convinced German intelligence officials that Assad did not order or approve what is believed to be a sarin gas attack on Aug. 21 that killed hundreds of people in Damascus’ eastern suburbs...

A U.N. team dispatched to Syria to investigate the March 19 attack was sent to the scene of the Aug. 21 incident. The samples it collected are currently being analyzed in Europe at labs certified by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international agency that monitors compliance with chemical weapons bans...

The newspaper’s article said that on numerous occasions in recent months, the German intelligence ship named Oker, which is off the Syrian coast, has intercepted communications indicating that field officers have contacted the Syrian presidential palace seeking permission to use chemical weapons and have been turned down. The article added that German intelligence does not believe Assad sanctioned the alleged attack on August 21.,,

Last week, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, also citing a briefing for German legislators, said that the Oker had intercepted a phone call between a commander from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and an official at an unidentified Iranian embassy saying that Assad had ordered the Aug. 21 chemical attack out of anger. The Hezbollah commander called the attack a “huge mistake,” Der Spiegel said.

posted by mediareport at 7:32 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


(For what it's worth, McClatchy reporters were among the few raising critical questions about the rush to invade Iraq.)
posted by mediareport at 7:33 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


No kidding: Read The Onion if you want to understand Syria

Ugh. No way. That should say, "Read The Onion if you want simplistic short-attention-span joking coverage of Syria that changes with the prevailing political winds." Seriously, I'm really tired of The Onion on this stuff. They pushed hard - oh-so-satirically, of course - for more US intervention in Syria, then shied away from their previous coverage when it looked like their perspective was helping launch a unilateral US cruise missile strike that would surely kill civilians in yet another Middle East country. When asked about the disrepancy, the head editor retreated into pure clowning that pretended to disclaim any possible notion that satire might conceivably have an effect on policy:

A few examples from recent months include “‘Help Has To Be On The Way Now,’ Thinks Syrian Man Currently Being Gassed”; “Obama Deeply Concerned After Syrians Gassed To Death On White House Lawn”; “‘Syrians’ Lives Are Worthless,’ Obama Tells Daughters Before Kissing Them Goodnight”; “Obama Weighing His Syria Option”; “Nation Currently More Sympathetic To Demise Of Planet Krypton Than Plight Of Syria”; and “Hi, In The Past 2 Years, You Have Allowed Me To Kill 70,000 People,” by “Bashar al-Assad.”

Satire exists in part to lampoon and challenge popular opinion. But the sum total of The Onion’s Syria content adds up to something resembling a serious issue campaign, though recent moves toward a bombing campaign in Syria on the part of the U.S. government appear to have shaken the publication’s resolve. The Onion has published two stories critical of the plans this week...

The Onion’s editor-in-chief, Will Tracy, said in an email to BuzzFeed that the paper has not staked out a position on what the U.S. should do in Syria.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve staked out an editorial line so much as we’ve chosen to acknowledge two equally valid points of view at once,” Tracy said. “Specifically, we want to support the rebels because of our own strong financial ties to the jihadist movement, but we also want to support Bashar al-Assad because he’s been a close and dear friend of the paper for nearly two decades.”


Ha. Ha.

Look, I love satire, but The Onion was clearly pushing an agenda; it loved to talk the talk of war when it was convenient but faded as soon as the reality of war loomed in front of it, then tried to deny there was anything questionable about its approach. Whatever. Read The Onion for a snort of derision or an eyebrow raise at how fucked we all are, sure, but read The Onion to understand Syria, instead of reading reporters who are, you know, actually reporting from Syria?

You're a goddamn fool.
posted by mediareport at 7:50 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth, fairly early on in the runup to bombing the NYT reported that Obama's missile attacks wouldn't hit Assad's "chemical munitions capability" but rather air bases and other conventional military targets:

The attacks, which are expected to involve scores of Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from American destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, would not be focused on chemical weapons storage sites, which would risk an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe and could open up the sites to raids by militants, officials said.

The strikes would instead be aimed at military units that have carried out chemical attacks, the headquarters overseeing the effort and the rockets and artillery that have launched the attacks, according to the options being reviewed within the administration.


So striking the units with the capability of launching the strikes isn't hitting his chemical weapons capability? Your own quote completely proves my point. They are hitting the personnel and equipment to deliver the strikes. That's striking their chemical weapons capability.

Duh.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:44 AM on September 10, 2013


So striking the units with the capability of launching the strikes isn't hitting his chemical weapons capability? Your own quote completely proves my point. They are hitting the personnel and equipment to deliver the strikes. That's striking their chemical weapons capability.

Except they aren't even proposing to do this. What they are proposing is hitting command and control centers associated with chemical weapon units. Which would seem to make future use by some commander surrounded and cut off from his leadership much more likely.

That's striking their chemical weapons capability.

No it's actually not. It's striking command and control nodes, which as I said will not degrade the ability to use chemical weapons, just disrupt the chain of command associated with chemical weapon units, which would seem to be a bit reckless in my opinion.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:42 AM on September 10, 2013


Except they aren't even proposing to do this. What they are proposing is hitting command and control centers associated with chemical weapon units. Which would seem to make future use by some commander surrounded and cut off from his leadership much more likely.

That's striking their chemical weapons capability.

No it's actually not. It's striking command and control nodes, which as I said will not degrade the ability to use chemical weapons, just disrupt the chain of command associated with chemical weapon units, which would seem to be a bit reckless in my opinion.


Bending over backwards to make it seem like your cited quote said anything other than we are hitting their chemical weapons capability isn't helping your argument.

You apparently don't know much about the Syrian military. All of Syria's chemical weapons are controlled by Unit 450 (NYT, paywall), an elite unit in the Syrian military. So hitting it effectively would knock out their capability. There is no "some commander." There is only one commander who has the specialized capability to launch these weapons.

Personally, I am not for the idea that we ought to hit anyone who uses chemical weapons with military strikes. But the idea that this isn't an operation that could seriously degrade Syria's ability to use chemical weapons is wrong. But hey, I opposed Libya, and that worked fine, so I could be wrong.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:01 AM on September 10, 2013


To add what I forgot--this will target the missiles that deliver the chemical agents. Aelfwine Evenstar's own link he cited states that. The idea that hitting those missiles won't degrade the ability to deliver chemical weapons is wrong.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:02 AM on September 10, 2013


There is no way such specific targeting will be effective after a month of warning. Duh.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:15 AM on September 10, 2013


Aelfwine Evenstar's own link he cited states that.

What link are you talking about? I didn't provide any link in my last comment.

But here's a link which seems to paint a picture very different from the "slam dunk" you have concocted in your head.

Military experts cautious about effectiveness of a U.S. attack on Syria
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:00 AM on September 10, 2013


There is no way such specific targeting will be effective after a month of warning. Duh.

Really? How's that? We can't track a mobile launcher for a 12-meter long SCUD missile? It has to be more than 75 feet long with cab. As I've said a million times before, being realistic will convince people that this is not a smart attack--because we don't want to have established the principle that we have to drop bombs every time some state makes a chemical attack. But to say that somehow we won't hit the command and control for Unit 450 because they will have activated some sort of cloaking device is factually wrong.

Put another way, how is that the NSA is this evil agency that can suck up any and all information, yet we cannot know where they've parked 20-30 75 foot long SCUD launchers or where they have their command and control bunkers makes the key argument less credible.

Aelfwine Evenstar's own link he cited states that.

What link are you talking about? I didn't provide any link in my last comment.


Sorry, it was Mediareport. That's who I responded to and because you responded to me a day later, I thought it was you who had originally posted the link to the story that said we were hitting the missiles. The person said it was aimed at regular army units, and was linked to a paragraph that said the opposite.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:08 AM on September 10, 2013


Sorry,

No harm, no foul. Actually I had a link prepared to throw in there and thought I had. Then when you referenced a link I had made I looked back and kinda questioned my sanity for moment. But, yeah.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:28 AM on September 10, 2013


There is no way such specific targeting will be effective after a month of warning. Duh.

Really? How's that? We can't track a mobile launcher for a 12-meter long SCUD missile? It has to be more than 75 feet long with cab.


I'm not sure what ballistic missiles have to do with the chemical attacks on the Syrians.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:29 AM on September 10, 2013


Syria’s Chemical Weapons: Issues for Congress

From the linked paper:

According to the ODNI report covering 2011, Syria’s chemical weapons agents “can be delivered by aerial bombs, ballistic missiles, and artillery rockets.” A 1991 national intelligence estimate states that Syria had 500-kilogram aerial bombs containing sarin. Furthermore, according to an August 30, 2013, White House statement, the government “has thousands of munitions that can be used to deliver chemical warfare agents” and “has the ability to strike simultaneously in multiple locations.”

No currently proposed military strike could reliably degrade all of these delivery capabilities. As you yourself noted above when you said: "I doubt we can get much of their delivery systems." Which is confusing because later you say: "the idea that this isn't an operation that could seriously degrade Syria's ability to use chemical weapons is wrong."

Airpower Options for Syria: Assessing Objectives and Missions for Aerial Intervention

This report seems to disagree with your second assertion. From the report:

Prospects for eliminating Syria’s extensive chemical weapon capabilities through air attack do not appear promising. At the very least, accomplishing this objective would require ground forces, and even then it may not be possible to neutralize the regime’s entire arsenal. Airpower could be used, however, for retaliatory threats or attacks to deter further chemical weapon use. Airpower could also be used to target the regime’s most-effcient ways of delivering chemical weapons, thereby decreasing the regime’s capacity to inict mass casualties through their use. Above all, it is essential to note that each of these aerial intervention measures could lead to further, more-extensive U.S. military involvement in Syria, particularly if it did not achieve its initial strategic objectives. Also, it could trigger serious escalatory responses from other parties such as Russia.

The report goes on to say:

this would require exquisite intelligence about target locations. However, sufficient intelligence to support a genuinely disarming set of strikes is unlikely to be available.

The report concludes that while a mission to "reduce" or "degrade" is doable, it is far from a sure deal. Their final assessment of the prospects for success are "uncertain" and "marginal." All of this minutiae aside, we both fundamentally agree that military action at this point is unwise. So there's that.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:41 PM on September 10, 2013


... military action at this point is unwise. So there's that.

Not parochially it's not. If US Congress now agrees to intervention because: "Hey! The military threat got Syria to CWC, and Assad to ICC", what you are essentially left with is the US wisdom: We have a gun at the UNSC's head.

We'll see how Congress decides now.

China's not going to like the ramifications when North Korea next acts out.
The US may not like it if Israel does something criminal, either. There's that.

This whole thing has been an exercise in reaching UNSC resolution around Syria's use of chemical weapons played out in public. We all get the gist.
posted by de at 1:02 PM on September 10, 2013


I'm not sure what ballistic missiles have to do with the chemical attacks on the Syrians.

The SCUD is Syria's primary chemical weapon delivery system. They have 750, of which 100-200 are Sarin-capable.

http://www.observerindia.com/cms/sites/orfonline/modules/issuebrief/attachments/ORF_Issue_brief_45_1347355536755.pdf
posted by Ironmouth at 5:06 PM on September 10, 2013


The report concludes that while a mission to "reduce" or "degrade" is doable, it is far from a sure deal.

If you were expecting the US to deploy Gandalf or Q to make all Syrian WMD disappear, well, no, that's not going to happen. But the claims I was responding to, the idea that we were going to strike conventional troops only, was not only ridiculous, but belied by the source cited by mediareport in the very text he pasted into his comment.

And reducing chemical weapons capability is good and may deter further use. Regardless, there are too many questions on the IR side to make the strike. I will say this, one of the authors of that report you cited disclosed to me that he's being pressed into these chem things and its not his main area. He's a good friend and well-known in the WMD field.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:14 PM on September 10, 2013


To add what I forgot--this will target the missiles that deliver the chemical agents.

What if they move the launchers next to orphanages and other populated areas with human shields? Do we still target them? It would seem to me you they protect mobile missile launchers with human shields. Runways may be more difficult.
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:39 PM on September 10, 2013


*raises finger in air*

I actually had a line about delivery systems in that comment, Ironmouth, but deleted it because I (admittedly wrongly, I see now) assumed that "chemical munitions capability" referred more to factories and storage than delivery systems. Swear to god, cross my heart and all that. But thanks for those links; you're right in pointing out I don't know much about the Syrian military, and I particularly appreciate the link to that Observer India pdf.

The important part for me is that we appear to agree military strikes are not the right strategic move at this point, but I get it's important to you the rationale for our shared objection be clear and evidence-based. I also agree that we shouldn't be "expecting the US to deploy Gandalf or Q to make all Syrian WMD disappear," which is a thought we should be deploying ourselves to counter the "BUT HOW CAN WE TRUST SYRIA TO DESTROY ALL ITS CHEMICAL WEAPONS???" stuff we're seeing this week.

Anyway, in the spirit of poking you into a typically unnecessarily aggressive but nonetheless generally informative response, I will take minor issue with this:

But hey, I opposed Libya, and that worked fine

One of the consequences of the way the Libya intervention was handled - i.e., aggressively, with bombs - is that large numbers of weapons were spread into militant and/or al Qaeda hands, with a major destabilizing effect across the region resulting. I can dig up links later, but it seems a little glib to write/imply/whateveryouweredoingthere that the US intervention in Libya "worked fine."
posted by mediareport at 6:43 AM on September 11, 2013


The SCUD is Syria's primary chemical weapon delivery system. They have 750, of which 100-200 are Sarin-capable.

http://www.observerindia.com/cms/sites/orfonline/modules/issuebrief/attachments/ORF_Issue_brief_45_1347355536755.pdf


These are not the weapons being used against the Syrian people. They are the weapons that could potentially be used against other nation states in the case of intervention. We must intervene to bomb the SCUDS because our intervention might cause him to launch them! Or they could fall into terrorist hands if the regime collapses of course, but we are getting a bit far from a simple punishment strike if we are fighting future terrorist threats instead.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:10 AM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


NYT: A Plea for Caution From Russia (Vladimir V. Putin)
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:43 PM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've read very few other opinion pieces were I so strongly feel "Yes" to some of the content and "Go fuck yourself" to other parts of the content.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:02 PM on September 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


One of the worst things about this mess is that Obama/Kerry have somehow managed to make a thug like Putin seem more statesmanlike than they are. There's a revolting development for you.

But damn did Putin nail the American exceptionalism garbage Obama's been increasingly spewing. I'll take that from whatever source I can.
posted by mediareport at 8:18 PM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The rhetoric of American exceptionalism is cliche, and I sighed a bit at that too. It's the rhetorical, conservative equivalent of a flag pin. Looking at that in context, however, he seems to be talking about the ability and the use of military intervention a la Kosovo and Somalia, which the U.S. did undertake before anyone else (the former worked out quite well, over time, the latter was a disaster, the politics of which led Clinton to shy away from backing intervention in Rwanda). Those examples were exceptional, in the context of global leadership. I'd see this as less cliche, however, if he used the term "exceptional" in a more aspirational sense, given all that's happened since 9/11. And then he could pander some under-informed, average American in a more thoughtful way, even if he'd still be pandering so, so very much.
posted by raysmj at 9:14 PM on September 11, 2013


Have you read Obama's books? They are riddled with exceptionalist language and ideas. It is practically the foundation of his whole way of thinking - the US is the exceptional nation and, although it lost its way under Bush, all it needed was the right man behind the wheel.

Nothing he has done as President has been remotely surprising, as it all fits with the idea that everything will be ok because he is a good man, leading the greatest county in the world, and all of these things just have to be done to keep the world safe. Blergh.

Excuse my semi rambling tone but I'm trying to write this on my phone and it's deeply frustrating.
posted by knapah at 3:47 PM on September 12, 2013


Is it even possible to get elected in the US if you don't buy into American Exceptionalism? I seem to recall Obama getting flak in his first campaign because he hinted that the US might not be that exceptional, but he quickly stopped doing that. I can't find a source for that, though.
posted by Harald74 at 12:38 AM on September 13, 2013


Off the top of my head I can't recall anything like that, but there was a lot of trying to associate him with Rev. Wright's "God Damn America!"
posted by Drinky Die at 1:09 AM on September 13, 2013


Elite Syrian Unit Scatters Chemical Arms Stockpile Assad Regime Has Moved Weapons to as Many as 50 Sites
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:58 AM on September 13, 2013


Elite Syrian Unit Scatters Chemical Arms Stockpile Assad Regime Has Moved Weapons to as Many as 50 Sites

... and they've been doing it for over 12 months, even up to last week and the US can track their movement.
Whenever chemical munitions are deployed in the field, Unit 450 has to pre-deploy heavy equipment to chemical mixing areas, which the U.S. and Israel can track.
The US failed to prevent the August 21 massacre. Why?
posted by de at 10:37 AM on September 13, 2013


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